St Michael's Church in Ballyagran. Google Maps

'Two special angels': Husband pays emotional tribute at funeral of Marie Downey and infant son

Marie Downey and her son Darragh died in tragic circumstances at a Cork hospital this week.

THE HEARTBROKEN FAMILY of Marie Downey (36), and her infant son Darragh, who both died at Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH) last week, have “two special angels” watching over them, mourners were told at their funeral mass today. 

Four-day old Darragh was laid to rest in the arms of his mother at Castletown Cemetery, Co Limerick, following their joint funeral mass in Downey’s native Ballyagran in Limerick.

In a deeply emotional tribute to his wife and son, Kieran Downey told mourners gathered at St Michael’s Church in Ballyagran village, how his wife was “a beautiful person, both inside and out”.

“She had a heart of gold. She always put us first. We were her life and she was ours,” he said.

Herself and Darragh are our special angels now.

Downey also recalled how the “first dance” played at the couple’s wedding was the Carpenters hit, We’ve Only Just Begun.

The congregation applauded as he ended the love letter to his wife and baby son:

And, we had only just begun. We will love you and Darragh forever.

A number of investigations are continuing into the circumstances of the deaths of the mother and son at CUMH.

It is thought Ms Downey, who it is reported had epilepsy, may have suffered a seizure while feeding Darragh in their single room at the hospital four days after Darragh’s birth.

They were found on the floor of the room with Ms Downey partially on top of her son.

Symbols representing Ms Downey’s love of sport were placed by her coffin including her camogie jerseys; a handbag symbolising her love of shopping; as well as a family photo of baby Darragh with his two big brothers, James and Sean.

In another deeply poignant scene, little James carried with him to the altar two pink teddy bears he shares with Sean, to add to Darragh’s pink teddy, symbolising the bond of the three brothers.

“Sorrow and sadness”

Fr Joseph Shire, Parish Priest of Ballyagran, said they had all “gathered together in sorrow and sadness”.

“There is much that we don’t understand, so much suffering. We will never be able to understand why these tragic events take place, especially to very good people,” Fr Shire added.

Addressing the devastation Downey and Cullinane families he said:

“You had a beautiful healthy baby only this day last week and were celebrating a little baby brother for James and Sean. Kieran had a new addition to the family, as we say, a lovely family.

There was joy and happiness for (Darragh’s) adoring grandparents, Jim and Helen, Tom and Elma, and how soon this all turned from tears of joy to tears of pain and grief and devastation.

Fr Shire said Ms Downey, who worked for Cork pharmaceutical firm Novartis, was dedicated to her family and her work.

“Marie was a lovely mother, wife, and daughter. She was a real lady.”

He joked she had been thrilled when the Liam MacCarthy All-Ireland hurling trophy – won by her native Limerick last August – had recently visited her adopted Kildorrery, in Cork “where there is a bit of a (silverware) famine at the moment”.

Colleagues of Ms Downey and those of her husband Kieran who works in Teagasc, attended the mass as did members of Ballyagran Camogie Club who wore their local colours.

Fr Shire said Ms Downey always loved “coming home at weekends to see Jim and Helen, who both adored her and the boys”.

Words will continue to fail us as we continue to experience this pain and grief.

A joint inquest into the deaths will take place at the Cork City Coroner’s Court at a later date.

At their funeral mass Kieran Downey placed a crucifix and bible on his wife and son’s coffin.

He thanked all those who had offered “great comfort and support” during the past horrendous few days.

A recording of We’ve Only Just Begun filled the church before mother and son were brought together to their final resting place.

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