President Higgins attending the funeral today. PA

People of Creeslough showing great example of solidarity, Higgins says, as funerals take place

The funeral services for James O’Flaherty, Catherine O’Donnell and James Monaghan are taking place today.

LAST UPDATE | Oct 12th 2022, 7:20 PM

THE PEOPLE OF Creeslough in Co Donegal are showing a great example of solidarity after tragedy, President Michael D Higgins has said.

The President returned to Ireland from Strasbourg and attended the funeral of victim James O’Flaherty today. He will also attend further funerals.

The funeral service for James O’Flaherty, 48, took at St Mary’s Church in Derrybeg, Co Donegal this afternoon. 

Mr O’Flaherty was originally from Sydney in Australia but had been living in Dunfanaghy, just miles from Creeslough, with his wife and son.

The service heard that Mr O’Flaherty, survived by his wife Tracey and 12-year-old son Hamish, was “a truly fantastic and loving husband and father, a caring brother and a relation, a committed work colleague and a dear friend to many”.

Parish priest Brian O Fearraigh told the congregation that Mr O’Flaherty read to his son every night and the last book that was read to him by his father was Going Solo by Roald Dahl.

James O’Flaherty’s 12-year-old son Hamish said his father was a “great man”.

Addressing his father’s funeral service, Hamish said: “I am grateful for all the people who have come here today. I would just like to say a few words about my dad.

“He was a great man. He worked very hard and very long each day. Whether it was around the house or at work.

“He wore a jacket with a huge paint stain on the side of it everywhere. He managed this by leaning on a wall which was still wet with paint. He wore the jacket everywhere. To the shops, to the movies, to the beach.

“I would like to say thank you to all of the people who have given and offered so many things. The emergency services too, who were there within 15 minutes and also came to the wake.”

Hamish O’Flaherty told mourners that they should cherish life and family.

“I would also like to say something I have learnt in the past week or so. We should be grateful. For your families, cherish them, be grateful for they won’t be there forever.

“Use the time you have wisely. Also, be grateful for your life because that too will not last forever. Be grateful, for you will be able to rest after your hard work.”

Mr O’Flaherty will be buried at Magheragallon Cemetery.

James O Flaherty James O'Flaherty

The funeral mass for Catherine O’Donnell and her son James Monaghan, two of the 10 victims of the Creeslough tragedy, has also taken place this afternoon.

The mother and son are the fourth and fifth victims to be laid to rest following Friday’s explosion at a service station in the Co Donegal village.

Mourners gathered at the entrance of St Michael’s Church in Creeslough as the hearses arrived at the church shortly before 2pm and their coffins were carried behind each other into the church.

Symbols of James Monaghan and Catherine O’Donnell’s lives were brought to the altar at the start of their funeral mass in Creeslough.

Fr John Joe Duffy said items to do with wrestling that “James loved so much” were being brought up alongside a watch and necklace to represent “the style that was so important to Catherine”.

Fr Duffy said James Monaghan was a child about to “launch into life”.

He told the joint funeral service: “We think of James. We think of a plane that is slowly taxiing down a runway, about to take off. That was James.

“He was just a child taxiing down the runway about to take off into his teenage years. He was just about to launch into life.

“It is no wonder under such circumstances, that words fail us this afternoon.”

He began the service by extending his condolences to the family of Catherine and James, especially Catherine’s daughter Sinead, partner Charlie Flood, mother Margaret and James’ father Christopher.

He told mourners that “words are inadequate to express the feelings of any one of us here”.

“Words fail us on how to offer support,” Fr Duffy said. “There are no words of support that we can offer you in our desire to care for you.

“Catherine and James’s family and loved ones, we are doing what we know best and that is we are standing with you. We are walking with you. We are praying for you.”

They will be buried at Doe Cemetery.

Catherine, aged 39, and her 13-year-old son James were in the queue at the post office inside the shop at the service station when the blast happened. 

James had just finished school for the week at nearby Mulroy College in Milford and had met his mother in the post office after he got off the school bus. Leona Harper, who also died in the tragedy, was a pupil at the same school.

2 Catherine and James Catherine O'Donnell and her son James

Ten people were killed in Friday’s explosion.

State authorities continue to investigate the cause of the explosion in a building complex which included the service station, a shop and apartments.

It is being treated as a “tragic accident”.

A gas leak is one theory, it is believed.

Speaking after Mr O’Flaherty’s funeral, President Michael D Higgins said the families of the Creeslough disaster were showing a great example of solidarity.

Higgins said: “I think it is very important what is being revealed now, in the response of the public, the response of the people of Creeslough and the great example they are giving.

“They have a very heavy burden of grief to carry.

“The way they are holding together is a great example. I think it is inspirational, the way people, not just in Donegal, but all over Ireland, have all been responding and being able to reveal their feelings and how their heart has been breaking.

“I think the courage and strength and love of Hamish (O’Flaherty) speaking about his father, Tracey speaking about their relationship, they give great hope.

“I will be attending other funerals. When the funerals are over, it is very, very important that people build on these relationships of solidarity.

“Being here and meeting the families – what they are showing us is a great example.”

The President told of his pride in those who took part in the emergency search-and-recovery operation.

“It was so impressive how effective, how fast, given that there were different services involved, about how they were all able to work together,” Higgins said.

“It was a community of first line services each doing their very, very best and being able to engage with the public,” he said.

Higgins said that “it is something to be very, very proud of”.

“As president of Ireland, I am very proud of them,” he said. 

Higgins also hailed the efforts of emergency services from Northern Ireland who helped following the explosion.

Two of the 10 victims – Jessica Gallagher and Martin McGill – were laid to rest after funeral masses in Creeslough yesterday.

The 10 victims were aged from five to 59.

The other victims were 50-year-old Robert Garwe and his five-year-old daughter Shauna Flanagan Garwe, who were in the shop to buy a birthday cake; 14-year-old Leona Harper; 39-year-old Catherine O’Donnell and her 13-year-old son James Monaghan; 59-year-old Hugh Kelly; and 49-year-old Martina Martin.

Ms Harper’s funeral will take place at St Mary’s Church in Ramelton, Co Donegal, tomorrow.

Mrs Martin, a mother of four, will also be laid to rest tomorrow with a service at St Michael’s.

Mr Kelly will be laid to rest at St Michael’s on Friday morning.

With reporting by Diarmuid Pepper 

Press Association
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