Michael Noonan in mourning as sister Mary among three women killed in horror crash
Former finance minister Michael Noonan is mourning the loss of his sister Mary, who was among three women killed in a road crash.
Tributes were also paid to Mary Costello (73) and Mary Bradley (77) who died with Ms Noonan in the two-car crash.
Mary Griffin (70), a passenger in 78-year-old Ms Noonan's car, was the only survivor in the collision.
Ms Bradley was the driver and sole occupant of one of the cars in the crash, which happened at about 6.30pm on Thursday on the N69 just outside Loghill village in west Limerick.
Ms Noonan, who lived in Loghill, was driving her friends Ms Griffin and Ms Costello to the Listowel Writers' Festival in Kerry when the accident happened.
Local parish priest Tomas Crawford said the accident had left the entire community shaken and urged drivers to take care on the road.
He said the cause of the accident was unclear as it was a straight stretch of road.
"They are not the type of women who would have been speeding anyway," he added.
Fr Crawford told RTÉ Radio One's 'Morning Ireland' programme that he came across the scene of the accident shortly after it happened.
"All I could do in that kind of scene was pray over them as well as I could," he said.
"It seemed to have been a terrible accident. It was a straight stretch of the road."
Ms Griffin, who was Ms Noonan's back-seat passenger, was last night being treated at University Hospital Limerick. Her injuries are said not to be life-threatening.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and other politicians expressed shock at the accident and offered their sympathies to the families involved.
Mr Varadkar said it was "devastating news", adding that Ms Noonan and her brother "went everywhere together".
"It's going to be very tough on him," said Mr Varadkar.
"The whole Fine Gael family is shocked and full of sorrow."
Limerick-based Senator Maria Byrne offered her "heartfelt sympathies" to the families of the victims. She said she knew Ms Noonan for 40 years.
Ms Noonan was a nurse who previously worked for Aughinish Alumina. Ms Byrne said her friend had been "a very kind and caring person" who was "enjoying her retirement".
"She was so good to an awful lot of people outside of her family circle and did an awful lot of good work," she said.
"She had a great interest in books and literature and she was on her way to the writing festival in Listowel when this tragic accident happened."
Ms Byrne said Loghill was a "very tight-knit community and people are just totally in shock. They knew all the people involved in the accident".
Last night, neighbours of the crash victims lay down flowers and held back tears as they expressed their great loss.
"They were the salt of the earth," said Peter Noonan.
"It's hard to put into words how devastated we all are. Tragedies like these just remind you how fragile life is. We're visiting the crash site for the first time and it's very difficult to take in what happened.
"There's not much we can do, but be there for the families and keep them in our prayers," he said.
Junior minister and Clare TD Pat Breen offered his "deepest sympathy" to the families of the bereaved and injured in what he described as a "terrible tragedy".
Junior Minister Patrick O’Donovan, a local Fine Gael TD, said the entire area of west Limerick was “stunned and shocked” by what happened in Loughill.
“The tragic loss of three local ladies, Mary Costello, Mary Noonan and Mary Bradley in such terrible circumstances has devastated the area.
“How an ordinary Thursday evening was turned upside down for families and communities along the Shannon Estuary, is something none of us will ever be able to comprehend.
“All of us here locally are numbed by this tragedy which happened in such a beautiful place. As a community all we can do now is to pray for them and their families, to support them all in the time ahead and to pray for the recovery of Mary Griffin,” he said.
Limerick County Fine Gael TD, Tom Neville, said: "People are still trying to take it in. At this point in time, our thoughts and sympathies are with the families involved in this tragedy."
His father, former TD Dan Neville, also offered his sympathies.
He said the accident would "have a devastating impact", adding that the women were "very well-known" and they "very outgoing people who were part of the community."
Transport Minister Shane Ross spoke out, appealing for caution on the roads over the Bank Holiday.
The minister said: "There are no words. It's just so incredibly sad that these things should happen."
Mr Ross pointed out that the country is coming into a Bank Holiday.
"I'd ask people to be careful on the roads for the next three days."
Gardaí have appealed for anyone with information in relation to the crash or anyone who may have dash-cam footage to contact them at Newcastle West Garda Station on 069-20650, the Garda Confidential Line 1800 666 111 or any Garda station.