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People stand in the rain at a vigil for the victims of the Creeslough explosion Diarmuid Pepper/The Journal
Creeslough tragedy

Vigil for Creeslough victims takes place as tributes continue to pour in

Dozens of people stood in the rain to pay their respects, with several musical tributes.

LAST UPDATE | 9 Oct 2022

A VIGIL HAS taken place for the victims of the Creeslough explosion and their families.

Tributes have continued to pour in for the families affected and the Creeslough community, including a message of condolence from Pope Francis.

Speaking to The Journal after the vigil, organiser Declan Meehan said: “It was important for us to provide some sort of focal point in the community for people’s shock, for their grief, and for the feeling of helplessness.

“We wanted everyone in the community to feel part of it, people of faith and of none.”

Dozens of people stood in the rain to pay their respects, with several musical tributes.

explosion-at-donegal-service-station PA PA

At the end of the vigil, held at the top of the Co Donegal town of Milford, the crowd sang an Irish language hymn, A Mhuire Mhathair.

Hot drinks and biscuits were handed out afterwards, as people gathered to process the news in the aftermath of the tragedy.

It is the first of almost 20 vigils due to be held across Co Donegal.

Meehan said: “We’ve never experienced anything like this before in Donegal, so there’s no playbook.

It’s incredibly important to be there in the coming weeks, months and even years, because anyone who’s experienced grief and bereavement knows that the days thereafter are just the start of it.

“It’s a much, much longer road to grieve properly and process it and to heal.”

Meehan said it was also important to support emergency responders who attended the scene, as “a lot of them have experienced a lot of things none of us can ever imagine.”

Donegal musician Cormac Friel performed a song he wrote about the tragedy:

We light our candles and pray for those who’ve gone /
And think of the others who carry their memories on /
There are things in this life that are to hard to understand /
We gather together hand in hand /
United with Creeslough we stand

A statement sent by the Pope’s representative to Bishop of Raphoe Alexander McGuckian read: “His Holiness Pope Francis was saddened to learn of the loss of life and destruction caused by the explosion in Creeslough and he expresses his spiritual closeness to all those suffering in the aftermath of this tragedy.

“While entrusting the deceased to the merciful love of almighty god, His Holiness implores the divine blessings of consolation and healing upon the injured, the displaced and the families coping with pain of loss.

“As a pledge of strength and peace in the lord, the Holy Father sends his blessing to all the people of Ireland.”

Gardaí named the 10 victims this afternoon at a media conference.

Collage Maker-09-Oct-2022-12.50-PM

Local pharmacist Fergus Brennan said the youngest victim, five-year-old Shauna Flanagan Garwe, was a “beautiful little girl” who used to “bounce into the shop”, and would always ask for a lollipop.

“As the names were confirmed, the stories of these people … really are embedded in the community,” he told RTÉ News.

Brennan told The Journal that the sense of shock in the community was compounded by the fact that the shop was frequented by everyone in the town: “It could happen anywhere … a freak accident.

“Any one of us could be in that tragic list of 10 names.

091022 CREESLOUGH APPLEGREEN Aerial view of the destroyed Applegreen petrol station in Creeslough Joe Dunne Joe Dunne

He said Creeslough struggled through the recession and is “getting back on its feet” with successful businesses such as the service station.

But “all that matters now are the eight homes that are devastated by the loss of a loved one.”

He paid tribute to all the victims, and mentioned that 49-year-old Martin McGill was in the pharmacy “two or three times a week” as he was a “dedicated carer” for his mother.

A man in his 20s remains in a critical condition in St James’s Hospital in Dublin following Friday’s blast.

The seven other surviving casualties continue to receive treatment in Letterkenny University Hospital and remain in a stable condition.

Political leaders pay tribute

Earlier today, Taoiseach Micheál Martin met those who were admitted to hospital after the service station explosion.

He also met with the medical team who were on duty on the day of the explosion in the village, as well as members of Letterkenny fire station.

explosion-at-donegal-service-station Tánaister Leo Varadkar and Taoiseach Micheál Martin meet Chief Fire Officer Joseph McTaggart at Letterkenny fire station PA PA

Accompanying Martin were Agriculture Minister and Donegal TD Charlie McConalogue and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee paid tribute to the victims on RTÉ One today, remarking: “We all offer our condolences to the families whose lives have been utterly changed forever but but the entire community I know will be coming to terms with this for a long time.

She also thanked “the Gardaí, the ambulance service, fire service, people who themselves came and literally lifted bricks with their bare hands, not just in Donegal but across the border. I mean, we can only commend them and I know they’ll need our help and support as well.”

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald visited the town last night with Donegal TD Pearse Doherty.

explosion-at-donegal-service-station PA PA

Local mass

Bishop of Raphoe Alan McGuckian said the people of Creeslough are “living through a nightmare of shock and horror”.

Addressing the congregation during Sunday mass at St Michael’s Church, the bishop said: “At this time, you, the people of Creeslough are living through a nightmare of shock and horror since the very heart of the community was deeply wounded on Friday afternoon.

“It’s an experience that we are living through together. But we recognise that the trauma is different for every single individual. We hold in our hearts most especially those for whom this is most acute.”

explosion-at-donegal-service-station Ten red candles for the ten victims of the explosion were lit at St Michael's Church in Creeslough this morning PA PA

Gardaí said that while they will be investigating the cause of the explosion, signs currently point towards it being a tragic accident.

It is understood that one avenue of investigation is the cause being a gas explosion.

Additional reporting by Press Association and Diarmuid Pepper in Creeslough

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