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Teenage victim named as Creeslough locals gathered for remembrance service

The service was attended by the Taoiseach and Tánaiste among other political figures.

THERE IS NO community as strong as that in Creeslough, a service to remember the 10 victims who died in an explosion in the village has heard.

Local priest Fr John Joe Duffy hailed a major rescue effort over the last two days as “unparalleled in measure” during the service at St Michael’s Church. 

His comments came as one of the people who lost their lives in the explosion was named. Letterkenny Rugby Club posted on Facebook this evening that member Leona Harper was killed in the incident: “We are heartbroken to say our worst fears have been confirmed. Leona Harper tragically lost her life yesterday in Creeslough.”

It continued:

Leona was a talented rugby player and an important part of our U14 girls team. To Leona’s parents, Hugh and Donna, her brothers Anthony and Jamie, and all of her team mates, we offer you our deepest condolences and support. There are no words that feel strong enough at a moment of deep sorrow such as this. Rest in peace, Leona. 

Hundreds of people, including emergency workers who had taken part in the search, packed the Co Donegal church this evening.

Also in attendance was Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and Sinn Féin’s Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill were also in the congregation.

Parish priest Fr John Joe Duffy began the service by welcoming everyone to the church.

A red candle was then lit by the Bishop of Raphoe Alan McGuckian for each of the 10 victims of the tragedy, which included two teenagers and a young child.

The candlelit tribute will remain for a week.

Fr Duffy thanked the emergency services who “gave so much of themselves in the tremendous efforts to save lives and recover the deceased”.

embedded269188472 Taoiseach Micheál Martin speaks to Sinn Féin leader, Mary Lou McDonald, in the village of Creeslough érian Lawless / PA érian Lawless / PA / PA

He also thanked emergency workers from Northern Ireland who had joined in the search operation.

He said: “The greatest strength of any community is its people. The individuals and families that together form a community.

The closer we are as a people the stronger the sense of community, and nowhere is that sense stronger, in no place is there as strong a community as we have here in Creeslough. Especially at this time. 

He added: “Our hearts are indeed broken, we all sense a numbness, a disbelief that we are really experiencing this tragedy, that it is real.

“The grief we see in the young and in the old shows that this is a family that cares for each other, a genuine community.

“We suffer the loss, we all sense the pain.

“The days ahead will be difficult days. I wish there was some easier way, but unfortunately there is not.

“However, the strength of our community will carry us.”

He said the parish “owed so much” to those who had taken part in the emergency search operation.

The priest added: “The effort we saw in our community was unparalleled in measure and we are so very grateful.

“Let us now be there for each other, let us journey together in these sad times.”

Bishop McGuckian said: “The heart of this beautiful community of Creeslough, our community of Donegal and our national community, has been sorely bruised – broken, even – by the horror of this situation.”

Several politicians took time to meet with local residents outside the church following the service.

Speaking to The Journal after the service, SDLP leader Colm Eastwood said that locals in Creeslough were devastated but “also united and standing with each other”.

“People in Derry feel exactly the same, and that’s why I’m here on behalf of the people of the city to show that solidarity; but people across the island are just devastated. There are no words that can comfort people in this moment, but I think we just have to be here.”

He said that the all-island approach from the emergency services did not surprise him, and he “could not imagine” what they had gone through in doing the work they did.

- Additional reporting Diarmuid Pepper

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Press Association
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