'They are together with God'
‘Now you have five more angels in heaven to accompany you and help you bear the cross,’ Fr John O’Connor told mourners at St Anne’s Church in Shankill last Monday morning.
Brilliant spring sunlight shone down as the late Annmarie O’Brien (27), her daughter Hannah-Paris O’Brien (2) and unborn baby boy AJ, and their cousins Holly McGinn (3) and Jordan McGinn (4) were brought to their final resting place.
The children’s distraught fathers Sean Patel and Jamie McGinn would bear the terrible burden of carrying their coffins to the altar in St Anne’s, with the help and support of their family members.
A young boy stood quietly for a time to look at framed photographs of the children and Annmarie, placed on a table at the rear of the church.
The rest stood waiting for the wretched procession of caskets, the smallest for a little boy who never drew breath, taken away over nine months into his mother’s pregnancy.
Brightly coloured balloons were placed near the altar, Spiderman, Peppa Pig, and the words ‘baby boy’ adorning them. Beside them were placed beautiful garlands of flowers, atop them the names of the deceased.
Annmarie, Hannah-Paris, AJ, Jordan and Holly all lost their lives in a fire at the Cluainin Cronan apartments in Clondalkin last Wednesday morning.
Jordan and Holly’s mother, Annmarie’s cousin, Biddy McGinn (O’Brien), remains in critical condition in St James’s Hospital.
Biddy (30) and her children had been visiting Annmarie for a sleepover that night.
Annmarie and Hannah-Paris lived at the residence which provides supportive housing to women in post-crisis situations, run by the organisation Sonas.
The two women were very close, as close as sisters, and loved to spend time together.
Fr O’Connor was joined by Fr Paul O’Driscoll, parish priest of the Travelling People, as well as Fr Paddy Killilea, who works with the Travelling People. Fr Michael O’Dwyer and Fr Jaimie Twohig, of St Anne’s Parish, were also assisting.
Fr O’Connor welcomed Seán and Jamie, and said that Biddy was with the congregation in spirit. He asked mourners to remember Annmarie’s late mother Mary and brother Andy.
He welcomed Jordan and Holly’s grandparents Bridey, Marion, Robin and Mick, and Annemarie’s father, Martin, as well as her 15 siblings, all of their friends and extended family.
Colonel Michael Tiernan, Aide-de- Camp to President Michael D Higgins, was representing the president.
Cllr Cormac Devlin, cathaoirleach of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, Guss O’Connell, Mayor of South Dublin County Council, and Cllr Steven Matthews, cathaoirleach of Bray Municipal District, were also at the Mass.
Dublin Fire Brigade were represented by chief fire officer Pat Fleming and fire officer Paul O’Reilly. The gardai were represented by Chief Superintendent Gerry Russell and Superintendent Pat Ward.
‘Like Martha, many today will feel abandoned by Jesus, let down by Jesus, angry with him,’ said Fr O’Connor.
‘Many of us may feel like saying to him: “if you had been here, Annmarie, Hannah-Paris, AJ, Jordan and Holly would not have died. If you had been here, Biddy would not be gravely ill. Why did you let this happen?”
‘Martha had the courage to express her anger, her sorrow and her confusion right straight to the face of Jesus because he was her friend,’ said Fr O’Connor.
‘Jesus is our friend also, we should tell him what we feel today in our hearts.’
He said that this was not the first cross that the family had been asked to carry. ‘Pope Francis tells us that God chooses his best soldiers for the toughest battle,’ said Fr O’Connor.
‘Without any doubt, you are God’s toughest soldiers. You can be sure that you are not alone in the battle now.
‘You have five more angels in heaven to accompany you and help you bear the cross.’
He said that Travellers are part of a very strong and noble tradition.
‘Your culture will stand by you and give you strength and courage in these difficult times.
‘We here in St Anne’s also promise that we will accompany you and support you, as does the Travellers parish.’
Fr O’Connor told mourners that he spoke to Jamie on Sunday evening. ‘He told me how much Jordan and Holly loved their mammy, and how much she loved them.
‘Jamie is obviously deeply upset by the death of his two beautiful children, but he is happy that they are together with God. They are together, they’re not alone.
‘He wants his children to know that he will look after their mammy. Biddy is a very strong and intelligent person. But she now needs the love and support of all of us as never before, and I know that you won’t let her down.
‘No words of mine can soften the terrible blow that you have received but I ask you all to put your trust in God and to accept his holy will.’
Fr O’Driscoll gave a short reading to those gathered in the church. ‘Dear Annmarie, Hannah-Paris, AJ. Dear Jordan, and Holly. When you joined our family our hearts were so full of happiness that there was no room in us for words,’ he said.
‘As you were growing our hearts were so full of care for you that we spoke soothingly, sometimes sharply – fearful for your safety but always, in the deepest places of our hearts, we spoke lovingly.
‘We marvelled at all you did and became. There is a place within us that is yours, and yours always. For the light you brought to us, for the special gift you will ever be, thank you.’
The organ was played softly and three hearses waited outside to bring Annmarie, Hannah-Paris, AJ, Jordanand Holly to their burial at Springfield Cemetery in Bray.