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Saturday 9 December 2023 Dublin: 10°C

'Ireland as a nation suffered a loss which is beyond words. There are no words'

The first of the Carrickmines funerals took place in Bray today.

20/10/2015 Hundreds of people have gathered at the Sam Boal Sam Boal

Updated at 6.10pm

POIGNANT SILENCE SPREAD throughout Bray town this morning as five hearses drove down its Main Street carrying the victims of the Carrickmines tragedy.

Emotional scenes followed, when three large silver caskets, followed by two smaller white coffins, were carried by loved ones into the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer.

The majority of shops in the bustling town had their shutters down in the windows as a mark of respect for all those who died in the tragedy.

Ten people – including young children – lost their lives in the halting site tragedy in the early hours of Saturday 10 October.

Laid to rest

Today, Willie Lynch, 25, his partner Tara Gilbert, 27, and their two children Jodie, 9, and Kelsey, 4 were laid to rest with Willie’s brother Jimmy Lynch, 39. Tara was pregnant at the time of her death.

The packed church could not hold the hundreds of mourners that attended to pay their respects.

An overflow hall was used to hold further numbers, with many more standing out on the streets as the funeral was broadcast to a community united in sadness.

20/10/2015 Hundreds of people have gathered at the Sam Boal Sam Boal

A message of sympathy from Pope Francis was read at the funeral Mass.

Bishop Eamonn Walsh said the Pope expressed his deep sadness “over this terrible tragedy”.

“The Holy Father prays especially for those who have died, and he wishes to assure all their family members, their friends, and the whole Traveller community, of his spiritual closeness and sympathy at this very difficult time.”

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Lead celebrant Father Derek Farrell said that he awoke like many other people to the news last Saturday week hoping he was just waking from a bad dream.

He said he quickly realised he was waking to an enormous unfolding tragedy “that was all too real.”

Three families, Lynch, Gilbert, and Connors, the entire Traveller community, and Ireland as a nation suffered a loss which is beyond words.
There are no words… No words to take away the pain. No words to restore what has been lost.

Fr Farrell said the only words of comfort or hopeful consolation is that some lasting good will emerge in Irish society so that those who died did not do so in vain.

20/10/2015 Hundreds of people have gathered at the Sam Boal Sam Boal

As a couple, Tara and Willy were themselves very loving and close. John, Willy’s brother put it so simply and beautifully when he said: ‘God made them, God matched them.’ They stuck like glue to one another, and bonded very well. They managed everything so well, the house, the family…  they were a really happy, loving family.Tara was a fantastic mum. The children always came first.

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Fr Farrell said the mission on our journey through life is love, and Tara and Willy’s unborn child fulfilled that mission, “in the love with which they and the family awaited their child”.

Willy cherished what he called his ‘three girls’: Tara, Kelsey, and Jodie. He brought the girls everywhere with him. Kelsey stuck like a magnet to Willy, always wanted to be close to her Daddy. Jodie meant the world to Willy as well.”

The congregation was told that Willy’s family would always say: ‘He never stops talking!’ He loved fixing bikes, he loved his hunting, he loved nature, he loved life.

Tara was the boss – in the best possible way. When it came to caring for her family and taking care of others, she took charge. Beautiful inside and out, always smiling, easy-going, never grumpy, a fantastic Mum, her children always came first.
Tara adored her father Harry, and was very, very close to Amanda – as twin sisters they loved one another, and though not always with permission, shared everything including clothes, earrings, and hair extensions.

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Jimmy, brother of Willy and Sylvia, “had a heart of gold”, the congregation heard. He was “very good with his hands, he liked to fix things, and especially to fix things for other people”. He loved Elvis too.

Fr Farrell said only the families themselves can know the reality of the loss, but that the outpouring of support for the families and goodwill shown has been in a context of often new close relationships between settled and Traveller communities, united in various forms of solidarity and prayer over the past week.

A unity perhaps no more poignantly and particularly embodied than in the loving relationship of Tara as a young settled woman and Willy as a young Traveller man, and the family they together established so beautifully.

Mourners joined in song during beautiful performances of The Prayer, Ava Maria and Alleluia.

Among the mourners were Tánaiste Joan Burton, Minister for Children James Reilly, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and the head of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, Emily Logan.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was represented by Commandant David Foley and President Michael D Higgins by Lieutenant Coloonel Michael Kiernan. Both shook hands with the families and offered their condolences before the ceremony.

Prayers of the faithful were read by members of the Gilbert family. Mourners were asked to pray for four-year-old Tom Connors who was injured in the fire and who remains in hospital.

20/10/2015 Hundreds of people have gathered at the

Words from the Gilbert family were read by Stuart Gilbert, Tara’s nephew, who said they were all deeply sad about the loss of their loved ones.

He said Tara’s “goodness and love” had remained constant.

What he remembers most about Tara is the times she would babysit him and his sister – times made up of “eating Chinese food and ripping holes in his mother’s clothes”.

“She had gone through a lot in her life, and a lot of hairstyles,” he said, which was followed by a muttering of laughter in the pews, cutting the deeply sad atmosphere that was palpable in the church.

“Jody never missed a day of school,” he said. “She used to walk with such confidence.” Gilbert added that he always loved to see her drop off her bike in their garden before heading off for a day of school.

“Kelsey was just coming into her own, finding her own character,” he said.

Our dead are never dead to us until we forget them.

A poem was then read by the young children of the Lynch family. Each one, taking to the microphone and with help, reading heartfelt words about the family members they have lost.

“Pray for our families, please protect them. Willie with his humour will teach angels how to dance… Jody will always be our ray of light… Kelsey like your mammy… artistic, understanding we adore you little angel, not just beautiful, but outstanding

Jimmy was our treasure, with his heart of gold.

We ask Lord to take them now.”

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Before Mass was ended, John Lynch said a few words. With pain and grief in his voice, he thanked the community.

Thank you, from all of my heart, for everything you have done for me.

Tearful scenes followed as the family of five were led down the aisle as Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You was performed.

The remains were taken to Springfield Cemetery in the town.

The other victims of the fire, Thomas and Sylvia Connors and their children, Jim, Christy and Mary, will be buried in Wexford on Friday.

More: Carrickmines tragedy shows we all have empathy, but it gives way when it comes close to our backyard