Wednesday 19 December 2018

Thousands pay tribute to tragic Jill in hometown

People sign a book of condolances on display in the Laurence Town Centre in Drogheda
Jill Meagher

THOUSANDS of people paid tribute to tragic Jill Meagher in her hometown of Drogheda, Co Louth, yesterday.

Locals queued to sign books of condolence and the Tricolour outside the local authority office was flown at half-mast.

At the 29-year-old's former school in the town, St Oliver's Community College, photographs of their much-loved past pupil on the day she got her Leaving Certificate results were placed beside a book of condolence in the school's meditation room.

"We can see from the reaction of students that it is important for them to have this. She sat where they are sitting now," said principal John Halpin.

One of the school's staff, Julie Cullen, went to UCD at the same time as Jill.

"We got on like a house on fire. I don't think I would have made it through UCD without Jill because she was such a great support to me and such a great friend. We were the best of friends there.

"I don't think women all over the world will ever feel fully safe again. It is something we have all done, we have all gone out alone and walked somewhere we probably shouldn't have and we will think twice about it now."

Jill's uncle Michael McKeon, who lives in the town, said she would be remembered as "very bubbly and very outgoing".

"Every place she worked she was promoted because she was so valued as a work colleague."

He added: "The town in Drogheda has come together. We (family) have been in the town a long time.

"My father had a pub on Laurence Street and there is a lot of support coming in, people calling to the house. "We have had a lot of support through the media as well and social media.

"We would ask people to be restrained (on social media) because there is a court case in relation to this.

"It's a time you don't expect to experience. We are finding it difficult to cope with. We are finding it difficult to understand how a parent could lose their child. You don't expect to bury a child . . . you just don't expect to do that."

Mr McKeon said funeral arrangements had not been finalised but if Jill's final resting place was in Australia there would also be a service in Drogheda.

In the Laurence Town shopping centre around 400 people an hour were signing books of condolence.

"We want her family to know that we are thinking of them and praying for them. It is nearly personal for me because I have a daughter who lives in Australia. For a mother, the loss of a child must be the hardest thing," said local woman Grace McBride after signing.

The shopping centre's operations manager, Susan Dunne, said: "We wanted to give them a way to express their sadness and sorrow at the passing of Jill. Everyone in here today has said they felt very sorry for her family and we will pass on the books to them."

Drogheda mayor Paul Bell, also offered his sympathies to Jill's family. "I feel a huge sense of grief and sadness for the loss of a most beautiful human being and can only sympathise with Jill's family in this unbearable pain and shock at the loss."

As a mark of respect the Tricolour outside Drogheda Borough Council offices was at half-mast. Mr Bell will open another book of condolence in the Tholsel building in Drogheda town centre on Monday.

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