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Thursday 14 December 2017

Moment the remains of young family brought to church ahead of funeral

Sylvia and Thomas Connors' young son (4) survived the inferno and will be cared for by relatives

The remains of the Connors family are brought to the Church of the Ascension of the Lord Balally, Dublin. Pic:Mark Condren
The remains of the Connors family are brought to the Church of the Ascension of the Lord Balally, Dublin. Pic:Mark Condren
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

A senior priest has spoken out against decades of government failure to provide safe housing for the Travelling community, at the removal of five victims of the Carrickmines Fire.

The remains of Thomas Connors (27) and his wife Sylvia (25) and three of their children, Jim (5), Christy (2) and five month old baby Mary, were brought to the Church of the Ascension of the Lord in Balally, co Dublin this evening, ahead of their funeral mass tomorrow at 11.30.

They will be buried together in Wexford.

The couple's four year old son, Thomas Jr. was the only one to survive the inferno and was released from hospital this morning into the care of his aunts and uncles.

Mourners who attended the removal included Thomas' parents, Jim and Jojo, his brothers Jim, Dan and John and sisters Kathleen and Maggie.

Sylvia's brothers John and Ben were also present, together with her sisters Tina, Annamarie, Josie, Bridget, Teresa and Caroline.

At a prayer service to welcome the remains to the church, Parish Priest Monsignor Dermot Lane said this tragedy has shocked us all, describing it as a nightmare for the Traveller community.

A darkness had descended over Glenamuck Road 11 days ago, he said and that darkness had remained over the family since then.

The entire nation was shocked that such a thing could happen in a halting site in this day and age, he said.

Read more: Carrickmines tragedy survivors to move to council car park as 'temporary accommodation'

The disaster has raised "serious questions" about our society and about the lack of government response "to a variety of reports going back to the mid 60s", Fr Lane added.

It touched on a number of serious issues regarding the provision of safe and appropriate housing for the Travelling community, societal inequalities and deeply entrained cultural prejudices, he said.

There were important lessons to be learned by all of us, said Fr Lane, adding: "we must learn to walk in the shoes of the other."

"We in the settled community have failed to walk with empathy," he said.

Prayers were said by the parish baptismal team who had christened all the Connors children.

Fr Lane recalled how he had personally baptised Michael and Thomas who had been born in Holy Week of 2011. His father had driven up in the van, bursting with pride and they had agreed to baptise the baby at the Easter Vigil mass.

"We expect to be back again next year," Thomas had told the priest and Fr Lane said they were, indeed, back the next year, with new baby Christopher.

Fr Lane told the Connors family that their grief was the grief of the parish "because you are an important part of this parish," he said.

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