Wednesday 13 December 2017

Tragic loss of a lovely family must be watershed moment, says priest

The caskets of the three children are removed from the church as family members follow behind
The caskets of the three children are removed from the church as family members follow behind
A mourner at the funeral yesterday
The remains of Sylvia and Thomas Connors and their three children, Jim, Christy and Baby Mary drive past the halting site where they lost their lives
Baby Mary Connors
Thomas and Sylvia Connors
Jim and Christy Connors
Relatives at the funeral
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

Devastated, weeping, his voice low and cracking with dazed grief, John Lynch told how he thought the phonecall informing him that he had lost all his family was a "hoax".

He described the "lovely day" he spent with them before the inferno that claimed their young lives.

They were all at his home in Bray, Co Wicklow, and then his brother-in-law Thomas Connors had left to drop his children home to Glenamuck before returning to collect him and his brothers, Jimmy and Willy, Willy's partner Tara and their daughters to bring them back to the halting site.

"We went up. I said good night to them and (that) we had a lovely day," he said.

"I had another can, Thomas had a cup of tay, Jimmy had a wee smoke.

"When we left that night, I woke up the next morning... I did not believe it. I thought it was a hoax call," he said, almost inaudible with heartbroken emotion. "I realised all me family was gone... me brothers, me sister, me brother-in-law, me sister-in-law and me nephews and nieces. The whole lot gone."

Led by Thomas's parents, Jim and JoJo, hundreds of mourners attended the funeral of Thomas Connors, his wife Sylvia, both aged 27, and three of their children, Jim (5), Christy (2) and five-month-old baby Mary, at the Church of the Ascension of the Lord in Balally, Co Dublin.

The couple's orphaned son Michael (6) brought up one of the offertory gifts while it is understood that their other surviving son, Tom (4), who was released from hospital the day before, was not in attendance.

President Michael D Higgins was represented by his aide de camp, Colonel Michael Kiernan and the Taoiseach by his aide de camp, Commandant Ciaran Carey.

Minister Alex White, Senator Shane Ross and TDs Gerry Adams, Mary Lou McDonald, Richard Boyd Barrett and Alan Shatter were amongst those present.

Members of the Traveller Community will travel to Rome today to receive the condolences of Pope Francis.

Mourners heard that this must be a "watershed moment".

Chief Celebrant Fr Derek Farrell, parish priest of the Parish of the Travelling People, said it would be lovely if Michael and Tom could grow up to become men in the knowledge that the deaths of their loved ones had brought about this watershed.

He paid tribute to the courage and bravery of Thomas Connors's young brother, John (15), who had risked his own life in an attempt to save his loved ones.

It was thanks to him that little Tom had survived the fire.

Fr Farrell described John as "a hero and a great source of pride".

He said Thomas and Sylvia Connors had been 'a match made in heaven' and they never left each other's side.

Jim was recalled as a "lovely boy, a very happy boy", while Christy was "full of life" though quiet at times and up until baby Mary's arrival had been "the little babbie". Little Mary was just five months old and when she arrived, was "much treasured by the whole family", he said.

"As a family, the parents of Thomas put it very simply: they were a lovely family, lovely children. We loved them."

The remains were removed to five hearses and followed by 12 cars of mourners, and travelled first past Ballyogan Gaelscoil where Jimmy was a pupil, along with Michael and Tom. There was then an emotional stop at the Glenamuck Road halting site where floral tributes and cuddly toys formed a shrine.

Then the journey continued towards Wexford, where several hundred mourners attended a prayer service at the Church of the Assumption on Bride Street, with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin present.

The family will be buried in Wexford today at midday.

Irish Independent

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