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'Devastating blow to the community': Tributes paid to popular priest killed in Cork crash

The driver of the bus was also killed in the crash on the Strand Road in Monkstown yesterday.

Updated Aug 4th 2021, 5:45 PM

TRIBUTES HAVE BEEN paid to a well-known priest and a bus driver who died in a bus crash.

Gardaí believe that the crash in Monkstown, Cork yesterday happened when the driver suffered a medical emergency behind the wheel and lost control of the vehicle.

The collision happened on the Strand Road in Monkstown in Cork Harbour yesterday when the bus collided with a pedestrian and a number of parked vehicles.

The driver, named locally as Mark Wills, who was in his 50s and from Ballincollig, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The other fatality was Father Con Cronin, the curate in the parishes of Passage West and Monkstown.

pjimage (20) Fr Con Cronin who died in the crash. Source: St Patrick’s Missionary Society

Local Councillor Marcia D’Alton paid a warm tribute to both men and said the local community are devastated. 

“The community are devastated, shocked and heartbroken. The people here have had a shock that is unfathomable, a silence has fallen over everything – that is the way it was here yesterday.

“The streets were empty and that was a measure of the shock. As the tragedy unfolded through out the afternoon and as we became aware – it is just indescribable what people were feeling.”

D’Alton spoke of the role Fr Con Cronin had played in the community known as the Harbour Parishes, located in the upper reaches of Cork Harbour.

“Father Con had become a huge part of our community – he was larger than life. He was a big man, with a big booming voice. Every part of him was big and he had the most extraordinary way of making everyone feel part of something and welcome. 

“It was in the most inclusive way. The measure of his goodness is only going to come out in time as each of us tells their stories.

“He was all about the human, and saw the human being not their status or any of the modern trappings of every day. There were no pretences, no airs or graces and he welcomed you into his world. 

“The loss of that is just horrific here this morning.”

Image from iOS (1) Mark Wills, who was driving the bus, was pronounced dead at the scene. Source: Facebook

D’Alton also paid tribute to Mark Wills who was also well known in the community as he drove the local bus route 

“He was a man, a frontline worker who always did a good job and driven people from A to B safely and he made people’s days brighter just by being the cheery person he always was. 

“People who took the 216 regularly knew him and reported on his cheery conversations with him and it is equally tragic that he would lose his life in this way. 

Fr Cronin 

In 1970 Fr Cronin began his studies for the missionary priesthood with St Patrick’s Missionary Society in St Patrick’s College, Buchlyvie, Scotland. Fr Cronin was ordained in 1979 and had ministered in Africa for 25 years before returning to Ireland in 2004.

Since his ordination in 1979, he had served in the Kiltegan Fathers Missions and worked for a time in Nigeria and in Scotland before returning to Co Cork in 2004.

“As the public outpouring of grief since Con’s death has manifested, he was a remarkable person,” St Patrick’s Missionary Society said in a statement. 

Full of energy and fun he radiated life and enthusiasm wherever he worked. Behind it all lay a very deep faith in God who loves everybody equally. Discrimination and favouritism were foreign to Con.

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“Con has been a blessing to his family, home community, St Patrick’s Missionary Society and parishioners whom he loved dearly, both in Nigeria and in Ireland. On this sad occasion we express our sincere sympathy to everybody who had the privilege of knowing Fr Con.

“We express our heartfelt sympathy, support, and prayers to the family of the bus driver, Mark Wills. We can only imagine their suffering and grief at this time.”

Fr Cronin was having lunch with a parishioner, and pushed her out of the way of the oncoming vehicle as it lost control and veered towards them, local sources said.

The Bishop of Cork and Ross, Dr Fintan Gavin, said Fr Cronin would be remembered for his sense of humour and openness to people in a statement on the parish Facebook page.

“Such a very dark day in our parish and surrounding areas. Fr Con Cronin was truly a people person, it was always good meeting him around Passage West,” one commenter said under the Facebook tribute post.

“An amazing man with a big heart. He will be sorely missed,” another commented.

“A lovely man and a friend for many years. I’m so sad for those who loved Con…his family, friends, parishioners and anyone he ever met really. Also thoughts and prayers are with the driver and his family,” wrote one man.

“It was always a pleasure to meet Fr Con he was man of the people and had kind word for everyone. Rest in peace.”

Mark Wills will be laid to rest on Saturday and his family announced his funeral details on Rip.ie this morning.

Funeral arrangements are yet to be finalised for Fr Cronin.

- With reporting from Adam Daly and PA 

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