Sunday 18 November 2018

Husband and two children stay away from tragic wife's burial

Eugene Hogan

THE husband of Traveller Kathleen McCarthy-O'Reilly and his two sons stayed away from her burial yesterday in protest at being prevented by the courts from organising her funeral.

The absence of Timothy O'Reilly and his family from the funeral of the mother of two, who took her own life eight days ago, highlighted the bitter split between two families over her death.

It is understood that the 22-year-old mother was six months pregnant at the time of her tragic death.

Gardai received intelligence on Thursday night that the Kilmallock, Co Limerick based O'Reilly family would not attend the funeral Mass and burial in Kilcornan, Co Limerick in protest at a High Court decision.

Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne ruled against Mr O'Reilly's wish to have the mother of his two children buried in Kilmallock where the couple lived and instead handed responsibility for her funeral to her parents, Michael and Margaret McCarthy.

The decision by the O'Reilly clan to stay away eased concerns about the funeral, which gardai had feared could turn violent as a result of the deepening split between the families.

The dispute initially arose when cousins Timothy and Kathleen eloped four years ago when she was 18 and were married by Tridentine bishop Michael Cox. The marriage is now accepted as invalid.

Tensions then rose this week following her death and the court battle.

Kathleen's two boys, aged three and 18 months, who are now being cared for by their father, were not among the 300 or so mourners.

Gardai mounted checkpoints on both approach routes to the tiny Kilcornan Church on the main Limerick to Foynes road. Mirrors were used to check under vehicles. A small number of crude implements, including hurleys and shovel handles, were removed from vehicles. Gardai also searched ditches and hedges around the church. Nothing was found.

A public order Garda unit, including some armed members, was on stand-by at nearby Pallaskenry.

Insp Seamus Gallagher, who headed up the security operation, said: "There was no incident and the funeral was held in the dignified and peaceful way we expected."

The 300 or so mourners, mostly drawn from Cork where the McCarthy family is based, were already gathered at the Church when Kathleen's remains, in a ?4,000 American stainless steel casket, arrived by hearse. They were brought from the west Limerick village of Shanagolden, where the O'Reilly family had a private wake on Thursday.

Fr Oscar O'Leary, chaplain to the Cork travelling community and a friend of the McCarthy family, said that the dispute that ended up in the courts was wrongly described in the media as a tug-of-war but was instead a "tug-of-love".

He went on to describe the 22-year-old as a fun-loving and very special person. "She was always out doing things for other people. If the roles here today were reversed between the O'Reillys and McCarthys it would not be any different. You should not be ashamed of what happened but accept it," he said.

The young mother took her own life amid reports that she had been badly assaulted.

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