Thousands pay respects as couple gunned down on holiday brought home
The deaths of a couple on a Tunisian beach at the hands of a radical Islamic gunman brings the horrors of terrorism to "Irish communities and Irish doorsteps", a congregation heard at their removal mass.
Fr Liam Devine said "the hearts of a nation" bled for Larry and Martina Hayes, who were killed last week in the shocking attack.
More than 2,000 people turned out in the pouring rain in their home town of Athlone as they reposed in a funeral home before being brought over the River Shannon to The Church of St Peter and Paul. Requiem mass will take place today at 11am.
Last night's removal mass was delayed for an hour due to the massive crowds who paid their respects to the Hayes family, including the couple's only daughter Sinead (30).
The turn-out "said it all", Fr Devine told the congregation, describing the tragic loss of the "soulmates" as "unreal" and "unbelievable".
"No words can adequately address this sad situation this evening," he said. He told Sinead "the heart of a community, the heart of a nation bleeds for you at this time in your grief, and in your sense of loss".
He added that the terror that has been associated with the Middle East and other parts of the world had now come to Irish doorsteps.
"It's so unreal. You hear about the Islamic State and the atrocities. We push it to the back of our minds and we say it's thousands of miles away," he said.
"It's here now. It's in our town, it's on our doorsteps. And it brings home to us how cruel and how unfair life can be at times."
The couple, who had been married 32 years, were waiting for a bus to take them to the airport after a week-long holiday in the coastal town of Sousse when they were killed. Instead, their remains arrived home in the early hours of yesterday.
Larry, known locally as Lonnie, had worked as a school bus inspector with Bus Éireann and his colleagues formed a guard of honour as the couple's coffins travelled to the church.
Senior management - including the chief executive Martin Nolan and chairman Aidan Murphy - will also attend the funeral services.
Among those who also paid their respects were TD Denis Naughten and former minister Mary O'Rourke.
Bus Éireann said there will be a minute's silence in its locations nationwide at 11am today, while flags at Broadstone depot in Dublin will fly at half-mast. Several books of condolences have been opened in regional bases.
Meanwhile, the funeral of mother-of-two Lorna Carty - the third Irish victim of the horrific terror attack - will take place tomorrow at the Church of the Assumption in Robinstown, Co Meath.