The daughter of a healthcare worker who died after being diagnosed with Covid-19 has paid a heart-rending tribute to her mother.
Mechaela Whelan Hickey hailed her mother, Catherine, who was one of two staff at a Kilkenny hospital to die this week after being diagnosed with the coronavirus.
Tributes poured in to Ms Hickey and her colleague, Jim Kenny, who died within 24 hours of each other.
Ms Whelan Hickey posted a social media tribute to her healthcare worker mother as: "Forever my mother - always my best friend."
Both healthcare workers were said to have "made the ultimate sacrifice" in the battle against Covid-19.
The two healthcare staff were employed at St Luke's Hospital in Kilkenny and were working until they fell ill.
Ms Hickey, who was in her 50s, died after being treated in the intensive care unit at the hospital for several days.
Mr Kenny, who was in his 40s, died at his Kilkenny home.
No details as to the precise causes of death involved have been released.
Ms Hickey was a member of the household staff at St Luke's Hospital.
The mother of two, who lived at Butt's Green in Kilkenny city but was originally from the village of The Rower, died on Wednesday after several days in intensive care and her funeral takes place today.
Mr Kenny, from Ballyragget, worked as a healthcare assistant at St Luke's and died at his home on Tuesday.
He is survived by his son Cathal, mother Lena and brothers Pádraig and Tony.
A special memorial Mass to celebrate his life will take place at a future date.
Siptu said both were deeply mourned by their colleagues.
"We offer our sincere condolences to the families and friends of our two deceased members," division organiser Paul Bell said.
"The colleagues of these two workers as well as the members and staff of the union health division are deeply shocked by their deaths. They have made the ultimate sacrifice while assisting in the fight against the Covid-19 virus."
Green Party TD Malcolm Noonan paid tribute to the two healthcare workers and underlined the debt that Ireland owed all healthcare staff.
Kilkenny priest Fr Pat Byrne said everyone in the community was deeply shocked by what had happened," said Fr Byrne.
"This is a very difficult morning - I pray for them, for their families and for their friends and work colleagues.
"We also pray in solidarity for everyone else (affected by the pandemic)."
Councillor Eugene McGuinness said everyone in Ireland owed health workers an enormous debt of gratitude.
"We salute, applaud and thank you for your bravery."
On the 8th of April my husband Fionan and I became first time parents. Our parents became grandparents, our ten siblings became aunts and uncles and cocooned in Kilkenny, you will even find two newly anointed great-grandmothers.