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The last kiss on darkest day

IT IS the picture that captured the grief of a community. A heartbroken young girl blows a final kiss to her pal who was tragically killed in the Donegal horror crash.

The devastated girl, a member of Illies Celtic Football club, formed part of a guard of honour as the coffin of tragic PJ McLaughlin, one of eight killed instantly in the horrific road accident, goes by.

But the emotion of the occasion proved to be too much for the girl, who broke down as the young man's remains was brought to the church.


PJ (21), a striker with the football club, was remembered by those who loved him as someone who "enjoyed life to the full". He was laid to rest just hours after the burial of pal Mark McLaughlin (21) and Hugh Friel (66) earlier that day.

Over a thousand mourners converged for a second time on St Mura's church in Fahan for the funeral of PJ McLaughlin who was described as fun-loving, meticulous in his work and a stylish dresser.

Fr Neil McGoldrick told the congregation of PJ's dream to become famous for something in his life.

"He has become famous, with his face on the front page of probably every newspaper in the country -- but not for the right reason," he said.

The priest recalled the devastating impact of the tragedy on the families of the bereaved.

"We all think we understand death until it comes to our own and suddenly it is an experience we knew nothing about until then," he said.

Earlier at the funeral of 21-year-old Mark McLaughlin, Fr McGoldrick likened the tragedy to a tsunami that had rolled across the Inishowen peninsula overwhelming everyone.

"Surely no words can adequately describe that harsh reality that has left Mark's family and so many other people feeling stunned and helpless.

"Eight deaths, seven young people, all gone. In an instant. How can this be?" he asked.

And at St Michael's church in Urris close to the northerly tip of the peninsula, Clonmany PP Fr Fintan Diggin paid a moving tribute to bachelor Hugh Friel (66), the sole occupant of the second car.

"He was low-maintenance. He was easily pleased. Working on his land gave him immense satisfaction," he said.

And as three of the victims of last Sunday's crash were laid to rest, the tight-knit community is bracing itself for a further four burials today.

Today, Paul Doherty from Ballyliffin should have been celebrating his 20th birthday.

Instead his parents, Felix and Sally, three brothers and a sister will be saying a last farewell.

Paul, who worked for an engineering contractor, has been described as a kind-hearted and hard-working young man, who was also a talented cook.

Later in the same church in Clonmany, family and friends will celebrate the life and mourn the death of his lifelong friend, Ciaran Sweeney, who himself would have turned 20 next week.

A former teacher described Ciaran as a "normal young fellow who got on well with everyone".

And in Cockhill, Buncrana, friends Damien McLaughin (21) and Eamonn McDaid (22) will be laid to rest within hours of each other.


Damien, who was from Umricam, worked as a carpenter and had attended Crana College in Buncrana.

From Ballymagan, Eamonn McDaid was described by a family friend as "the salt of the earth who will be terribly missed by his devastated parents Seamus and Martha".

He is also a past pupil of Crana College, Buncrana.

James McElaney (23) will be buried at a funeral mass in Clonmany at 11am tomorrow.