Friends and relatives of Deirdre McCarthy outside St John the Baptist Church, Ballyvaughan, Co Clare, at her funeral yesterday. Emma Jervis / Press 22
GARDAI investigating the murder of a woman whose body was washed up on a beach arrested the chief suspect for the killing yesterday while her funeral took place.
As mourners gathered around the family of Deirdre McCarthy at an emotional service in Ballyvaughan, Co Clare, officers took a 39-year-old man into custody outside University Hospital Galway.
The arrested man is also from the Ballyvaughan area and was being treated for self-inflicted wounds at the Galway hospital since the weekend. He is known to the victim's family and was detained by gardai after being deemed well enough to leave hospital. He is being held on suspicion of murder.
While he was being escorted from Galway to Ennis garda station, prayers were offered for him and his family by the packed congregation at St John the Baptist Church.
Acknowledging that the violent killing was a deeply emotive issue throughout the small coastal community, Ballyvaughan parish priest Fr Richard Flanagan, said: "God willing, let us not forget another unfortunate family, broken and confused by these tragic events."
Fr Flanagan twice repeated the words that Ms McCarthy's mother, Helen, had said to him.
"We do not come here today to point the finger or to judge."
He said: "They are courageous and generous sentiments from a mother who has lost her child. I am humbled by them. Only a mother could spare a thought for another mother in our community who is also suffering today.
"Only a human being who knows what it is to make her own mistakes and has the humility to recognise her own frailty could show such inspiring compassion."
The prime suspect can be held for 24 hours and was last night being questioned by officers in Ennis.
Ms McCarthy's body was found washed up at Fanore beach, Co Clare, last Thursday -- three days after she was reported missing from her home in Ballyvaughan.
She was last seen alive on March 27 around 11.30pm and the alarm was raised by her family the following day.
Heavy rainfall ceased as Ms McCarthy's remains made the short journey from her sister's home to the village. Hundreds had packed into the church and many more stood outside.
Fr Flanagan told heartbroken relatives that he could not claim to comprehend the pain, loss and anguish that Ms McCarthy's death had caused.
"For this pain there is no cure, though I believe in my heart of hearts, that in time there will be healing," he said.
He said "the entire community shares your suffering and sense of loss" and were gathered in a truly Christian spirit of prayer for the family.
"Coping with death is difficult enough, but trying to deal with the violent death of one's loved one is probably the heaviest cross any human being can be asked to bear in their lifetime."
He said all in Ballyvaughan would dearly like to rewind the clock and go back to the quiet and peaceful village they enjoyed just over a week ago.
"One act -- cruel and incomprehensible as it was -- does not, nor will, define us as a community," he said.
Floral tributes spelling the name 'Dee-Dee' and a photograph of Ms McCarthy accompanied her coffin to its final resting place at the local cemetery.