THE deaths of an Irish couple in a terrorist attack in Tunisia last week have been described as "unprecedented and unreal" at a heartbreaking removal mass in Athlone.
Massive crowds turned out in the pouring rain as Larry and Martina Hayes made their final journey to the church of St Peter and Paul last night ahead of their funeral this morning.
The removal mass was delayed for an hour due to the massive crowds which had come to pay their respects to the Hayes' family, including their only daughter Sinead and extended family and friends.
The huge turnout "said it all", Fr Liam Devine told the congregation, describing the tragic loss of the "soulmates" as "unreal".
"No words can adequately address this sad situation this evening," he said before adding the huge presence of mourners would be a comfort to Sinead.
He said "the heart of a community, the heart of a nation bleeds for you at this time in your grief, and in your sense of loss" and added that the terror that has been associated with the Middle East and other parts of the world had now come to Irish doorsteps.
"It's so unreal. You hear about the Islamic State and the atrocities. We push it to the back of our minds and we say it's thousands of miles away.
"It's here now. It's in our town, it's on our doorsteps. And it brings homes to us how cruel and how unfair life can be at times."
Among those who paid their respects to the couple were TD Denis Naughten and former minister Mary O'Rourke.
From 2pm, huge crowds had gathered at Flynn's funeral home before the coffins were taken in hearses over the River Shannon to the church.
The procession was led by groups from Bus Eireann, where Larry had worked, and the Order of Malta who marched beside the hearses.
Gardai blocked off roads as the coffins crossed over the Shannon in the large procession to the church.
Larry, known locally as Lonnie, had worked as a school bus inspector.
In a statement issued last night, Bus Eireann reiterated its "sincerest sympathies and condolences to the couple's daughter Sinead, and the extended families".
Local Bus Eireann staff will undertake a guard of honour at the Requiem Mass today.
There will also be a minute's silence in Bus Eireann locations nationwide, at 11am.
Flags at Broadstone head office in Dublin will fly at half-mast.
The Mass takes place at 11am with burial afterwards in Coosan Cemetery.
Meanwhile, the other victim of the horrific attack, Lorna Carty, will repose at her home on Friday from 11am with removal to the Church of the Assumption, Robinstown tomorrow morning for funeral Mass at 12 noon.