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Saturday 26 May 2018

'Mammy, nanny and Rachael fly high' - Son (13) pays heartbreaking tribute to three Donegal crash victims

Wakes in home village for mother, daughter and friend killed in crash

Accident victims pictured (l-r); Margaret McGonagle, Racheal Cassidy Battles and Mairead Mundy
Accident victims pictured (l-r); Margaret McGonagle, Racheal Cassidy Battles and Mairead Mundy

Paddy Clancy and Catherine Devine

Thousands will mourn as the funerals take place tomorrow of the three victims of the road tragedy at Ardee, Co Louth.

Services for Margaret McGonigle (69) and her daughter Mairead Mundy (37) will be held at 11am in the Church of Saint Joseph and Saint Conal, Bruckless, Co Donegal.

Mairead Mundy with her mother Margaret McGonagle
Mairead Mundy with her mother Margaret McGonagle

Then at 2.30pm the funeral Mass will start in the same church for the third victim, mother-of-four Rachel Battles (39). All will be buried in the adjoining cemetery.

So small is the church that the grounds and the car park are expected to be thronged with mourners unable to join the congregation inside.

So much sorrow poured over Donegal that traffic had to be steered away from neighbouring homes in a five-house estate when the wakes started.

A shuttle bus service operated from the local national school to the two wake houses after the bodies were transferred from a funeral home in Ardara.

Mourners included Rachel's four children and Mairead's only child, Caoimhin O'Neill (13), whose dad died tragically eight years ago.

Close family friends are helping Caoimhin deal with three heart-breaking losses - first his father, architect Declan O'Neill, in 2009, and last Friday his mother and grandmother.

Rachel Battles
Rachel Battles

The 13-year-old, who only just made his Confirmation, took to Facebook to say a final farewell to his loving mum.

He wrote “R.I.P Mammy Nanny and Rachael fly high god bless GBNF (gone but never forgotten).”

Parish priest Fr James Sweeney will officiate at the funerals of what he has described as one of the worst tragedies he has dealt with in his 32 years as a priest.

He said: "The whole community is still stunned but starting to come to terms with the terrible tragedy.

"There is still disbelief and shock. Personally, I am coming to terms with having to officiate at three funerals in two services as best as I can.

"These things are never easy, but you face up to it as best as you can."

There hadn't been a funeral in his church for nine months until yesterday when 92-year-old Francis McGinley was buried.

The congregation at his obsequies also prayed for the three women who will be buried tomorrow.

Bruckless is tiny but picturesque with the Round Tower outside the church the main attraction on the road from Donegal town to Killybegs, six kilometres away.

The post office and adjoining filling station are run by a close friend of the grieving families, Barry Gallagher.

He had a call at 4.30am last on Friday about the tragedy and he and his partner rushed to Rachel Battles' home to be with her 20-year-old and 14-year-old sons.

Barry said: "I was stunned initially when I heard the news. I thought the best thing to do was to visit the house. My partner was godmother to one of the two boys and we went to the home to see they were OK. There has been a strong connection between Rachel and my partner for quite a number of years."

Rachel, a native of Ardara, cared for her grandmother Ellen Cassidy, who was in short-term respite. She was looking forward to returning to the house on Rachel's return.

Barry also knew Margaret McGonigle and Mairead Mundy for most of his life.

He recalled that Mairead worked in Baskins Cafe in nearby Dunkineely.

The most famous customer Mairead would have served in Baskins is Sarah Jessica Parker, of Sex and the City, who has a holiday home in the area which she regularly visits with husband Matthew Broderick and their children.

Baskins sympathised with the grieving families in a Facebook message: "We are deeply saddened on the loss of our work colleague and friend, Mairead along with her mum Margaret and friend Rachel. We extend our sympathies to all the families involved in this terrible tragedy.

"Mairead you will be sorely missed here, by all at Baskins Cafe. May they rest in peace."

Margaret McGonigle lived most of her adult life in the Bruckless area but she was a native of Sligo town from the well-known McKenna family in St Brigid's Place. Her father, Anthony 'Gully' McKenna, was on the Sligo Rovers team that won the Free State junior Cup in 1929.

The women died in a collision on a road described locally as "a death trap" when returning home from Dublin Airport following a dream holiday in Turkey.

Mairead and husband Padraic were celebrating the first anniversary of their wedding with neighbours and friends.

Sunday Independent

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