A TEACHER who died after being trapped in a car which plunged into a Cork river at high tide was hailed as a devoted mother, a loyal friend and a kind-hearted woman who endeared herself to everyone she met in life.
The requiem mass of Gillian Daly (44) took place as her two children, Evan (11) and Luke (10), who miraculously escaped the tragic accident on Friday, led the mourners alongside their father, John.
A special tribute was paid to the courage of Evan and Luke, who managed to escape the sinking car and swim to the safety of the quayside.
The two boys brought offertory gifts to the altar to symbolise their mother's devotion to her family, her loyalty to her friends and her commitment to the children she taught over her teaching career.
Moving tributes were paid to Ms Daly as hundreds attended her requiem mass at St Patrick's Church in her native Millstreet, Co Cork.
Thirteen years ago, the young woman had married the love of her life, John O'Connell, in the same church.
Her brother, Jason, paid a moving eulogy on behalf of her grieving husband John, who said they were "inseparable through good times and bad”.
"You did me the greatest honour of my life by agreeing to marry me," Mr O’Connell wrote.
"There isn't enough time and there are not enough words to do justice to the lifetime of joy and happiness that you brought to the people around you, especially to me and our two beautiful children, Evan and Luke.
"We met on a night out in Cork on December 8, 2001 – I knew straight away I was in big trouble.
"I had to do a lot of chasing but it was more than worthwhile. The mileage of my parent's Ford Fiesta starting climbing suspiciously once the numerous trips from Kinsale to Millstreet and onwards to Killarney started.
"We then had a long-distance relationship for a couple of years between Limerick and Dublin while you started your teaching career.
"We have been inseparable ever since, through thick and thin, through good times and bad."
He said she loved to travel and they made some wonderful memories journeying around the world.
"Your charm and your gentle, kind way with people transcended nationalities and language barriers – you made friends wherever you went.
"You brought out the best in people that you met all over the world.
"I shook my head in wonder at your ability to make a connection with a stranger within minutes of meeting them."
Mr O’Connell said the couple’s wedding, in July 2009, was the happiest day of his life, until the births of their two sons.
"You took to motherhood like a duck to water. There has never been two children as cherished and loved by a mum as our two handsome boys.
"You have raised two fine, brave young boys and the values you instilled in them will make it a very easy job for me to finish your life's work and raise them to be the young men that any mum would be proud of."
Jason said that Gillian was a wonderful sister.
"As we grew up in Millstreet, you always brought joy to everyone you ever came in contact with.
"Mam and Dad were so proud of you and everything you achieved in life. From a beautiful baby to a wonderful mother. As a sister, we could not have asked for better.
"You were kind, caring, funny and always put everyone else's needs ahead of your own. Your nature meant you were worried about everyone else. You just hated seeing anyone else in pain."
He said his sister loved dancing and music, with study coming easy to her.
"In your teaching years, you were devoted to your students – the children clearly adored you."
Rev Jack Fitzgerald said Ms Daly's tragic death underlined how fragile life can be.
"A person so young and vibrant as Gillian, who was in the prime of her life and had so much to live for," he said.
"Gillian's tragic and sudden death has stunned our community. People are heartbroken.
"It is difficult to process and make sense of what happened. In many ways it is beyond our understanding.
"Last Friday evening, the world of the O'Connell and Daly families was turned upside down when news came through of Gillian's tragic death – and thankfully the remarkable and courageous escape of her two lovely boys who are here with their dad in the front seat.
"The death of Gillian at a young age – we realise how fragile life is and indeed, at times, how unfair life can be.
"We acknowledge all the good she did for her family. Gillian was an exceptionally loyal and true friend and will always be remembered that way."
Rev Fitzgerald said he did not personally know Ms Daly very well. However, he added: "From the personal tributes I have heard around the streets and from the locals who knew her, and indeed from reading some of the tributes that have been on RIP.ie, everybody who knew Gillian thought very highly of her as a wife, a mother, a daughter, as a teacher and as a friend.
"She endeared herself to everyone she came into contact with."
Symbols reflecting the loves of Ms Daly's life were included in the offertory ceremony.
These included a picture of her two sons, a travel book, a book of poetry, her make-up, some children's artwork and a book about friendship.
Ms Daly is survived by her husband John, children Evan and Luke, parents John Joe and Helen, her siblings and parents-in-law, Martin and Eileen.
She was originally from Millstreet but had been living over recent years in Douglas.
She had been working as a primary school teacher in Little Island.
After the mass, Ms Daly's remains was taken for burial to St Eltin's Cemetery in Kinsale.
The young woman died after the car carrying herself and two children entered the River Lee at Cork's Kennedy Quay shortly after 8pm last Friday evening.
After the two children were able to escape the car and swim to the quayside, they were dragged to safety by onlookers.
Tragically, Ms Daly was trapped in the vehicle and drowned after it sank just minutes before high tide along the city quays.
Gardaí said their investigation will hinge on forensic and technical evidence as well as eye-witness statements.
Both children were given preliminary medical treatment at the scene and were then taken to Cork University Hospital (CUH) for precautionary medical assessment of non-life threatening injuries.
They were treated for shock but were later discharged into the care of their father.
A huge search and rescue operation was launched last Friday evening which involved the gardaí, Cork Fire Brigade, HSE paramedics, Coast Guard, Naval Service, Cork River Rescue and Mallow Search and Rescue.
A number of pedestrians who were in the area also raced to help.
The operation was co-ordinated by the Coast Guard's Sikorsky Rescue 117 helicopter, which hovered overhead to use its specialist search cameras.
The incident occurred when high tide had almost reached its peak along the upper city quays.
Ms Daly's body was later recovered from the car by Naval Service divers.
The car was later winched from the river to allow for a technical examination by Public Service Vehicle (PSV) experts.
Gardaí are now preparing a file for a Cork coroner's inquest.