Thursday 22 February 2018

Poignant farewell for peacekeeper killed in East Timor

Brian McDonald

PRIVATE Peadar O Flatharta, the soldier killed in an accidental shooting while on peacekeeping duty in East Timor last week, was laid to rest with full military honours in his native Connemara yesterday.

President McAleese, the Commander in Chief of the Defence Forces, and her husband, Martin, held a private meeting with the family of Private OFlatharta before the funeral Mass at Tir an Fhia, in the heart of the Gaeltacht.

Chief mourners were his parents, Joseph and Mairin, brothers Padraig and Tomas, sisters Maria and Anne and his girlfriend, Julianne Flaherty.

The Taoiseach was represented by his aide de camp, Captain Ger O'Grady, and Minister of State Eamon O Cuiv represented the government. The army was formally represented by Chief of Staff Lt Col Colm Mangan, while Tom Hyland of the East Timor Solidarity Campaign was also present.

Hundreds of soldiers from units all over the country were joined by members of the Navy and Air Corps at the funeral while there was an enormous turnout of ordinary people from around Connemara.

The proceedings were relayed by loudspeaker to the huge crowd outside the Church of the Immaculate Conception, as tricolours and the Leitir Mor GAA Club flags were flown at half mast from local vantage points.

Chief celebrant of the Funeral Mass, Fr Eamon O Conghaile told the congregation that Peadar O Flatharta had been a very special young man. He was known for his kindness and his love of his family and community. He had always taken the trouble to enquire about elderly neighbours when he called home from overseas.

One neighbour was still carrying a letter written by him six months ago while serving on a tour of duty in the Lebanon. Not many young men would be so bothered to write home to a neighbour as he did, said Fr O Conghaile.

At the Offertory, family and friends brought gifts to the altar commemorating his life. His girlfriend brought a piece of jewellery he had bought for her, while the candle used at his baptism in the same church was also presented, as was his UN peacekeeping badge.

Most poignantly, his family brought letters written by the young soldier to them while on duty in East Timor.

Private Joe O'Flaherty, a colleague from An Chead Cath, based at Renmore Barracks in Galway, sang in sean-nos style throughout the ceremony. Commandant Eugene Doyle, the Liaison Officer with the O Flatharta family, recited a poem specially written by a friend, entitled Peadar.

Afterwards the coffin was borne on an army gun carriage and escorted through the winding roads of Tir an Fhia for the burial in the local cemetery.

At the graveside, Sean Breathnach played a farewell dirge on the accordian, while a firing party shot three volleys over the grave and the Last Post and Reveille were sounded by a lone trumpeter.

Pte O Flathartas UN beret, along with the UN flag and tricolour were formally presented to his family by Commandant Doyle.

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