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Woman swept out to sea and drowned while scattering sister's ashes in ocean

A woman was scattering the ashes of her dead sister in Connemara when she was swept into the sea and drowned.

The woman who lost her life in the drowning tragedy on Friday was named locally yesterday as Siobhan Monaghan, a native of Dublin who had been living in Clifden, Co Galway, for many years.

Ms Monaghan, in her 50s, was scattering the ashes of her recently deceased sister over Dollaghan Bay near Ballyconneely when the tragedy occurred.

She was carrying out the poignant ceremony with her brother-in-law on a cliff path when they were both swept into the sea at about lunchtime last Friday.

Her brother-in-law attempted to reach Ms Monaghan, but was beaten back by heavy seas. However, he managed to swim ashore and, with the help of a passer-by, immediately alerted the emergency services.

Clifden RNLI lifeboat and Cleggan coast guard unit, along with Clifden gardai and the Sligo-based search and rescue helicopter, all joined in the rescue attempt.

John Brittain of Clifden lifeboat said they were quickly on the scene.

"We got a call from Malin Head coast guard around about 2pm, telling us that somebody had been washed off the rocks near Doolaughan beach and we immediately set both our lifeboats to the scene.

"The conditions were poor -- a south-westerly wind and a good swell washing in onto the rocks. We were joined after about half an hour by the rescue helicopter and another half hour after that by the Cleggan coast guard unit -- which located the body of a woman after about two hours of searching, perhaps about 500 metres from where she had been washed over the rocks".

Ms Monaghan was from Dublin but had moved to Clifden and immersed herself in the local community.

She had been involved with Clifden Arts Festival in its formative years and artistic director of the festival Brendan Flynn said that everybody locally was devastated with the news.

"Our deepest sympathies go to her family. We have wonderful memories of her. Her honesty, commitment, generosity, creative spirit.

"We didn't have enough money to get meals in hotels, but had to cook ourselves and she was there every day looking after artists, making sure everybody was looked after. Such a generosity of spirit.

"It's so sad with her passing. We're devastated here," Mr Flynn said.

Meanwhile, the Irish coast guard issued a warning to the public as a gale warning remained in effect.

Coast guard director Chris Reynolds yesterday said: "The public is strongly advised not to go out on exposed coasts, cliffs, piers, harbour walls, beaches, promenades or any other coastal area during the inclement weather.

"The dangers from this weather system will be extremely windy and wet weather with spells of heavy rain, with the heaviest falls of rain in the south-west, west and north-west of the country. Some local flooding is likely."

Winds are forecast to moderate considerably by early today and brighter, more showery conditions should develop.

Sunday Independent