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Dublin: 10 °C Thursday 25 April, 2019
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'Life is precious, life is brittle, life is very fragile. We saw that on Sunday night. Everybody hurts.'

Priest asks mourners at the funeral of the fourth victim of the Donegal crash to treat the car as a lethal weapon and to decide to drive with care.

Donegal crash victims funerals Source: PA Wire/PA Images

BITTER WINDS BLEW across west Donegal today as communities gathered to say goodbye to the four young men killed in a horrific road crash last weekend.

For days family and friends have taken comfort in recalling the life and times of the friends but for many the grief, loss and turmoil created by the sudden deaths of Mícheál Roarty (24), John Harley (24), Shaun Harkin (22) and Daniel Scott (23) was too much to take on this last day of January.

Hundreds of mourners crisscrossed the rugged landscape in a bid to attend as many of the funerals as possible throughout the day.

Many travelled from different parts of the globe to say a final farewell to the four killed instantly when their Toyota Corolla car left the road near Magheraroarty at 8.40pm last Sunday night. 

Shops and businesses closed their doors as a mark of respect to the four young men who had grown up amongst them.    

Donegal crash victims funerals The funeral cortege of Shaun Harkin makes its way to Christ the King Church in Gortahork Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Shaun Harkin, age 22, late of Killult, Falcarragh was the first to be laid to rest as his funeral mass took place at Christ The King Church, Gortahork at 10am. 

Guards of honour from Cloughaneely GAA Club and Glenea Utd, as well as the local national and secondary schools lined the roadway as Shaun’s remains were taken to the church. 

Fr Sean Ó Gallchoir told hundreds of mourners that this was the start of a terrible, tragic traumatic and tear-filled Thursday. 

“This is one of the darkest days in the history of the community in Donegal as we say a final farewell to many of our young men of twenty, snatched from us in the prime and bloom of youth,” he said. 

Gifts including a photo and an electrical instrument to symbolise his job as an apprentice electrician, as well as his phone were brought to the altar. 

Fr Ó Gallchoir also made reference to Shaun’s friends, many of whom had travelled from Australia and the Middle East to be here for his funeral Mass. 

Ninety minutes later, the funeral Mass of Mícheál Roarty, late of Dunlewey, took place in the Sacred Heart Church, Dunlewey.  

PA-40936120 resize 2 The funeral of Mícheál Roarty at the Sacred Heart Church in Dunlewey Source: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Hundreds of mourners stood outside as the freezing winds of the Poison Glen bit hard. 

Tears flowed openly as members of Mícheál’s beloved Gaoth Dobhair GAA team led his coffin into the church. They carried three cups and his coffin was draped in the Gaoth Dobhair flag. 

Fr Brian Ó Fearraigh said Mícheál was a rogue – but a loveable rogue – and that there was laughter wherever he went. 

He told mourners, “He has finished the game – the game of his life – but those he has left behind him must continue playing until the final whistle and sure Roycee will be sitting on the sidelines waiting for you.” 

Donegal crash victims funerals Source: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Those in the congregation included the 1992 All-Ireland winning captain Anthony Molloy and the chairman of the Donegal GAA County Board Michael McGrath. 

Among the gifts brought to the altar were his Gaoth Dobhair GAA jersey and Dunlewey Celtic soccer jersey, as well as a pair of football boots and some aftershave.

Others to attend the funerals in the three parishes of Gaoth Dobhair, Gortahork and Falcarragh were TDs Pat the Cope Gallagher, Pearse Doherty and Thomas Pringle.

The Bishop of Raphoe, Dr Alan McGuckian, attended three of the four funerals.

John Harley, of Carrowcannon, Falcarragh, was the third of the young men to be buried. 

Hundreds also attended John’s funeral mass at St Finian’s Church, Falcarragh at 1pm. 

Donegal crash victims funerals The funeral of John Harley at St Finian's Church in Falcarragh Source: PA Wire/PA Images

A captain of the local Cloughaneely GAA club, Fr James Gillespie said John was a leader on the field. 

Although a talented footballer, he didn’t like to put in the hard work training and often said, “Training is for players who are trying to improve,” the congregation was told. 

Fr Gillespie said he arrived at John’s house at 11pm on the night of the horrific crash but that he had no words. 

“I arrived to a house of tears and shock, and disbelief, numb with what had just unfolded. Very little was said, and what could be said? No one had words,” he said. 

An apprentice electrician, Fr Gillespie also told how John worked in a local bar and look forward to Friday afternoons because it was “pension day” and some elderly customers would come in. The parish priest said John loved nothing more than chatting with them and seeing if everything was okay with them. 

Many of his family did not know this as he went about this in a quiet, laid-back and modest way, like many things he did in his life.

The bells tolled again at Christ The King Church, Gortahork, at 2.30pm for the funeral Mass of Daniel Scott, aged 23, late of Bedlem, Gortahork.     

The Mass was delayed as hundreds of mourners from the other three funerals made their way back to Gortahork for the final funeral.

Donegal crash victims funerals The funeral of Daniel Scott takes place at Christ the King Church in Gortahork Source: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Fr Sean Ó Gallchoir said Daniel was back in the same spot where he made his communion and then his confirmation. 

He recalled how Daniel loved keeping up his appearance and described him as “dapper Daniel”. 

Gifts of hair gel, a pair of Daniel’s blue suede shoes and a GAA jersey were brought to the altar. 

He had worked in many places, including Denmark and England, but never liked working in the bog cutting turf, added Fr O Gallchoir.   

As well as sympathising with his extended family, the parish priest reached out to Daniel’s girlfriend Helen and said that he would probably have one day wanted to start a family. 

He had a special word for the eight friends who had flown in from Australia to be with the families of Shaun, Micheal, Daniel and John. 

Donegal crash victims funerals Source: Niall Carson/PA Wire

But Fr Ó Gallchoir’s final words were words of warning for those who get behind the wheel, putting their lives at risk around the roads of Ireland. 

“Life is precious and life is brittle, life is very fragile. We saw that on Sunday night. Everybody hurts,” he said. 

“Every time that I sit into a car, that you sit into your car, there should be the deep decision and resolution to drive with care, to drive with attention, to drive safely so that no harm will fall on anybody. 

“The car is a lethal weapon. We all know that life is busy, life is hectic, we’re all in a rush, we’re all in a hurry, we all have deadlines but deadlines can sometimes result in dead lives,” he said.

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Stephen Maguire

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