Victims of Carrickmines tragedy make their final journey to lie in peace
It has been 14 days since 10 people died in the Carrickmines tragedy. But as the last victims were laid to rest in Wexford yesterday, the heartbreaking reality was only beginning for those left behind.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and ministers Brendan Howlin and James Reilly were among the hundreds of sombre mourners at the Church of the Assumption, where five members of one family were remembered.
Just metres away, a small boy stood almost completely unnoticed.
Staring up at the horse-drawn hearse, he gently reached out, stroking the mane, seeking solace in the soul of the animal that would carry his mother to her final resting place.
Little Michael Connors (6) was orphaned just over two weeks ago, along with his brother Tom (4).
Michael was embraced by family members yesterday as the coffins holding his parents and siblings were silently removed from the church.
As the gleaming white caskets emerged one by one, the true nature of the tragedy hit home.
Inside lay baby Mary Connors (five months) and her brothers Jim (5) and Christy (2). They were followed by their young parents Thomas and Sylvia Connors, both aged just 27.
Members of the Travelling community and the people of Wexford lined the streets in solemn silence as the funeral procession brought the town to a standstill.
Strangers cried when they witnessed the tiny caskets for the first time in the back of three black hearses.
Their journey to their final resting place started in Dublin on Wednesday and ended shortly after 1.30pm yesterday, when they were interred in Crosstown cemetery.
Earlier, chief celebrant, Fr. Aodhan Marken, said the fact that such a young family had been lost made the tragedy "even more unbearable".
"When someone dies who has reached a great age, we say that they have taken a great portion of history with them," he said.
"But when young people die they take away the future, their dreams, their vision and their potential; that's what makes this pain, this reality so devastating today, so unbelievable and heart-breaking."
He added that while they may have died in tragedy the family members had lived entirely for one another.
"Yes, they died amid tragedy and devastation," said Fr Marken, "but they lived in love for one another and especially for their family."
Bishop Denis Brennan delivered a message from Pope Francis and paid tribute to the strong family bonds he has encountered in the travelling community.
"Having worked with the Travelling People over the years I have come to know, and admire, your lively sense of the sacred, and your strong family bonds," he ended.
"I pray that these two traits, which are a hallmark of your community, will help you through this time of tears," he said. "In that spirit we commend Thomas and Sylvia Connors and their children Jimmy, Christy and Mary to the love and care of God our Father."
On Wednesday, the five other victims of the devastating blaze - Tara Gilbert (27), who was pregnant, her partner Willie Lynch (25) and their two young daughters Jodie (9) and Kelsey (4) - were laid to rest in Bray, Co Wicklow.