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Thousands turn out for moving tribute to flood hero garda

TORN by grief, a community bid a moving farewell today to hero Garda Ciaran Jones.

The talented inter-county GAA player was swept to his death in raging Liffey waters while helping others in Monday’s devastating floods.

The President and Garda Commissioner were among the mourners as crowds turned out for the young officer’s funeral.

Friends described how the 25-year-old lost his life as he tried to prevent others being caught up in the flash floods which hit the east coast.

Parents John and Brenda, his siblings Michelle and Alan, and Ciaran’s girlfriend Clare led the congregation, which included Ciaran’s Garda colleagues and GAA club members.

The 25-year-old, who was stationed in Stepaside in South Dublin for the past four years, was swept to his death at a bridge over the River Liffey near his family home in Manor Kilbride, Co Wicklow, as he came to the aid of motorists during torrential rain.

A short while earlier, the brave garda had been helping his neighbours in the village as water entered their property during the |deluge. After this, Ciaran, his friend Shane Carty, and brother Alan went to the aid of a motorist who was on the bridge before Ciaran was tragically swept away.

The body of the off-duty garda was found on Tuesday morning 4km downstream from where he entered the water.

At last night’s removal, Ciaran’s friends from Manor Kilbride GAA Club carried his coffin as thousands thronged the tiny church of St Brigid’s to say a tear-filled goodbye and pay tribute to the selfless actions of Garda Jones. President Mary McAleese attended the service in one of her last duties as President.

Also there were Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, the Taoiseach's aide-de-camp Commandant Michael Treacy, Brigadier General Michael Flynn for the Army, Brian Purcell, the Secretary General of the Department of Justice, and Mick O’Dwyer, the former Wicklow county manager.

In a moving tribute, Fr Padraig McDermott told the congregation that Ciaran died as he had lived – doing good as he attempted to help others. “Ciaran’s life ended in a good deed,” he said. Fr McDermott told mourners he was in a classroom with fifth class students and their teacher on Wednesday when Ciaran’s coffin passed by, bringing tears to the group.

“That is the effect that this young man had on our community. If you went in and asked the class, they all wanted to play for Kilbride, they all wanted to be captain of their team.

“He was their hero. And then he became a garda, they all wanted to be gardai like Ciaran. An amazing person and an amazing influence he had,” Fr McDermott added.

Garda Jones was burned in Manor Kilbride following mass at noon today.

Meanwhile, members of the Filipino community also gathered in Dublin to pray |for Cecilia De Jesus (58) who drowned when water inundated her basement flat in Harold’s Cross.

Father McDermott said Ciaran was a special golfer, rugby player and gaelic footballer and was a “credit” to his family.

The community was “everything to him” and Ciaran “enjoyed life to the full”. “I have never seen so many tears or broken hearts in our community,” he said. “He died as he lived – doing good.”

He added: “He will leave wonderful memories. Love and service was his life, and it was always done with a joyful smile…everything he did he did cheerfully.”