Sunday 24 February 2019

'Life is precious, life is fragile': four crash victims laid to rest

The funeral Mass of Mícheál Roarty in the Sacred Heart Church, Dunlewey, Co Donegal in the snowy shadow of Mount Errigal. Photo: Mark Condren
The funeral Mass of Mícheál Roarty in the Sacred Heart Church, Dunlewey, Co Donegal in the snowy shadow of Mount Errigal. Photo: Mark Condren
Mourners at the funeral of Daniel Scott at Christ the King Church in Gortahork. Photo: Mark Condren
A guard of honour for Shaun Harkin at his funeral in Christ the King Church, Gortahork. Photo: Mark Condren
A couple comfort each other at the funeral of John Harley at St Finian’s Church in Falcarragh. Photo: Niall Carson/PA
Friends: Mícheál Roarty, Shaun Harkin, Daniel Scott, and John Harley are being laid to rest today

Ryan Nugent and John Downing

The horrific Donegal road crash has torn the heart out of the local community and spread a dark cloud across the entire country, funerals for four young men have heard.

Thousands turned out in the bitter cold to pay their respects to the crash victims in back-to-back funerals. The huge attendance included eight good friends who had travelled specially from Australia.

Daniel Scott (23), from Gortahork, John Harley (24) and Shaun Harkin (22), both from Falcarragh, and Mícheál Roarty (24), from Moneybeg, died in a single-vehicle crash near Magheraroarty, Gortahork, on Sunday night.

The victims were travelling in a Toyota Corolla hatchback when it crashed near a bridge on a minor road.

The four friends' funerals were staggered across the morning and early afternoon yesterday.

The first funeral, of Shaun Harkin, took place in Gortahork. He had been baptised, made his communion and confirmation in this same church.

Parish priest Sean Ó Gallchóir said it was "one of the darkest and saddest days in the history of the community here".

Speaking in Irish, Fr Ó Gallchóir added that the horrific accident in nearby Gleannahualach on Sunday night had torn the heart out of the local community and spread a dark cloud across the entire country.

He offered special prayers for the Harkin family and all the people of the area, promising those grieving would have support and a listening ear.

Fr Ó Gallchóir also emphasised the need for safety on the roads and appealed to everyone to drive with greater care.

A guard of honour drawn from the local Chloich Cheann Fhaola GAA club, Glenea United soccer club, and the local national and secondary schools lined the avenue as the hearse bringing his coffin drove to Christ the King Church in Gortahork.

There were emotional scenes as the apprentice electrician was laid to rest in the local cemetery.

Later, a snow-covered Mount Errigal loomed over the Sacred Heart Church in Dunlewey as talented footballer Mícheál Roarty become the second of the friends to be laid to rest. The heart-rending words of a poem by 1916 Rising leader Pádraig Pearse were invoked at the second funeral Mass in the Donegal Gaeltacht.

A Gweedore GAA flag was draped around the coffin as it was carried into the chapel.

Many of his teammates wore club colours for their friend and such was the turn-out, hundreds stood outside in freezing conditions to pay their respects.

His coffin was led out by members of the Gweedore team with their Donegal and Ulster silverware they won in recent months.

The divisional, county and Ulster football trophies were carried in front of the hearse bearing his remains.

Fr Brian Ó Fearraigh cited the line: "Brón ar an mbás, 'sé dhubh mo chroíse (the sorrow of death has blackened my heart)" to sum up the cloud of grief covering an entire community.

His grieving family said Donegal GAA had meant everything to him.

Local soccer teams joined with Gweedore GAA members to form a guard of honour at the Sacred Heart Church in Dunlewey.

Fr Ó Fearraigh's eulogy was also carried by loudspeakers to the hundreds of mourners huddled outside Sacred Heart Church who braced themselves against an icy wind.

The priest paid a warm tribute to the young man, noting that he could sometimes be "a rascal" but never did harm.

"There was a nobility about him, a humanity and he had great faith," Fr Ó Fearraigh told the mourners.

The priest said the sense of sorrow and loss felt by Mr Roarty's family and friends as being "as great as the majestic mountain of Errigal and as deep as the nearby lake of Dún Lúiche, lying quietly in this glen".

Later in the afternoon, Fr James Gillespie described the scene of shock and despair at the family home of John Harley when he visited late on the night of the young man's death.

In his homily, the parish priest said he got a call from the Harley household about 11pm on Sunday.

"I arrived to a house of tears and shock and disbelief, numb with what had just unfolded," he said.

The funeral Mass of Mr Harley took place at 1pm in Falcarragh. As in the first two funerals, a large number of GAA club members conducted a guard of honour.

Mr Harley was a gifted and dedicated sportsman, albeit less enthusiastic about his football training, Fr Gillespie said, noting: "He did things when they needed to be done."

His friends described him as a brilliant mate and an "all-round nice guy", as Fr Gillespie put it.

The clergyman paid tribute to all the bereaved families, suffering grief and pain mixed with disbelief, and said the local community had provided great support.

"It is great comfort to know that he meant so much to so many.

"People from all over the world have been here for the Harley family," he said.

As the Mass came towards the end, one of Mr Harley's favourite songs, 'Beeswing', was played out on the speaker.

Finally, concluding the toughest of days for the tight-knit community, Fr Sean Ó Gallchóir spoke at the Mass of fourth victim Daniel Scott. Mr Scott had been due to travel to Denmark to start a new job.

The parish priest - leading his second funeral Mass of the day - said: "Hundreds of people from these parishes have given up their week's work to be stewards and marshals and helpers at the four wakes."

He spoke of Mr Scott's love for fashion. He was "a man of style", which was highlighted during the Mass, as gifts of aftershave and hair gel were brought to the altar.

Fr Ó Gallchoir said he didn't believe the church in Gortahork had ever been so busy in its 65 years and said the community "is full of broken hearts".

He spoke of how precious life is and urged caution for those on the roads. "Life is precious and life is brittle, life is very fragile, we saw that on Sunday night. Everybody hurts," he said.

"Every time that I sit into my car, that you sit into your car, there should be the deep decision and resolution to drive with care, to drive with attention, to drive safely so that no harm will fall on anybody.

"The car, as we can see, is a lethal weapon. We know that life is busy, life is hectic, we're all in a rush, we're all in a hurry, we all have deadlines but deadlines can sometimes result in dead lives," he added.

Irish Independent

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