Paul Williams: 'Carmel Collins will at last find rest next to her son'
She was the rock behind her family's brave stand against murderous gang
Carmel Collins was a quiet, dignified, beautiful person; the quintessential strong Irish mother whose unconditional love held her family together as they endured a living nightmare in the face of pure evil.
Cancer was to be the ultimate cost of that unimaginable journey through hell, but Carmel's irrepressible spirit drove her courageous battle with the disease for more than three years until, sadly, yesterday morning, when she slipped away peacefully with her husband Steve and her beloved children by her side.
She never got over the callous murder of her first born son, Roy, gunned down in the family business on Holy Thursday, 2009.
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That Carmel passed away on Easter Sunday adds a symbolic poignancy to this deeply sad story for Steve and their children - at Easter 10 years ago they were preparing for Roy's funeral.
On Wednesday, Carmel will be buried next to Roy in the grave she pined to be close to after the family were forced, because of continuing death threats, to move to the US under a witness relocation programme seven years ago.
It broke her heart not to be able to make the daily journey to lay flowers at Roy's headstone - and when she could not stand it any longer, brought her family back to Limerick after watching her boy's murderers tried, convicted and jailed for life.
No one can appreciate the immeasurable stress and grief Steve and Carmel Collins experienced together as a result of an unprecedented, sustained assault on their completely innocent family.
It involved the shooting of one boy and the murder of another, arson attacks, murder contracts, intimidation, closed businesses, near penury, post-traumatic stress, police protection and finally forced emigration. It all began the moment when Wayne Dundon stormed into their innocent lives intent on causing devastation, forever frozen in grainy CCTV images captured at 9.25pm on December 19, 2004.
Dundon threatened to kill Carmel's nephew Ryan, whom the couple had adopted as their son, when he refused to allow the killer's 14-year-old sister into Steve's pub, Brannigans. The leader of 'Murder Inc' came back a short time later and shot the 18-year-old a number of times in the legs.
Despite threats and intimidation the Collins did their civic duty, with Carmel's full backing, which saw Steve and Ryan testify against Dundon who was jailed for making threats to kill.
Steve's Collins's courageous stand against organised crime, bringing thousands of people on to the streets of Limerick to protest against the gangs, earned him the love and admiration of the entire nation.
He would not have been able to withstand the pressure if it had not been for Carmel, his rock who kept him going through the darkest of days of which there were many.
She chose to take a backseat, standing silently by her husband's side, but ensuring her family stood firm and others didn't suffer the same fate.
It was Carmel's idea Steve should rally the good people of her native city - a major factor as to why Limerick is now a peaceful city.
Carmel and Steve were an unbreakable and inseparable unit; a genuine love story which began when a young electrician from Ballyfermot was sent on a job to Limerick.
Less than 24 hours later, Steve first laid eyes on Carmel Lee - both were smitten. Less than a year later they married. The couple had four children, Roy the eldest, Paul, Steve junior and daughter Leeann, who remained their baby.
The family adopted Carmel's nephew Ryan Lee, her brother Vincent's son, who was tragically orphaned.
They instilled in their family the standards of integrity, decency and courage they have demonstrated since being foisted into a hell not of their making.
The family are devastated by the loss of Carmel, which they quite rightly believe to be a direct consequence of the past 15 years of trauma and grief.
It will take a long time for this latest wound to heal but they have some solace that this remarkable wife, mother and human being is at rest with the boy she lost at Easter.