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Michael Noonan pays tribute to his sister Mary - a 'keystone of the family'

The former Finance Minister said Mary had been a “focal point” and “keystone of the family”, and that “we will miss her very much”.

FORMER FINE GAEL leader and senior minister Michael Noonan, paid a tribute to his sister Mary, who was one of three women killed in a two-car crash in Limerick last week.

Mary Noonan (78) was driving herself and two friends Mary Costello (73), and Mary Griffin (70), to a book club meeting in Listowel, when they were involved in a collision with another car.

Mary Noonan and Mary Costello – whose husband Tom passed away six weeks previously following an illness – both died at the scene.

Mary Griffin was airlifted to hospital from the scene and is making a steady recovery, it was heard.

Maeve Bradley (77), from Pallaskenry, who was driving the other car and who also died at the scene, was cremated in a private ceremony today following her funeral mass.

The triple fatal tragedy occurred just outside the village of Loughill, around 6.30pm, last Thursday.

Mary Noonan’s funeral was held at the tiny Church of The Assumption, in Loughill, which stands on a hill overlooking the shores of the Shannon Estuary, located a stone’s throw from the port town of Foynes.

Mourners included well-known present and past TDs and ministers, Mary Harney, Willie O’Dea, Paschal Donohoe, and Patrick O’Donovan, as well as members of the judiciary – Supreme Court judge Mr Justice John McMenamin and Mr Justice George Birmingham, President of the Court of Appeal, who had also served as a minister of state under Garret Fitzgerald in the 1980s.

The Taoiseach was represented by acting Aide de Camp with the Defence Forces, Captain Angela Lyons.

Leading a mass of over 20 priests chief celebrant, Father Tom O’Connor, head of the Kiltegan Fathers, and assisted by Loughill parish priest Father Austin McNamara, summed up the mood as he addressed the Noonan family: “Our words count for little today but we hope our presence is a help to you”.

Mary Noonan’s late brother Fr Jim Noonan, who died three years ago, had spent 40 years as a Kiltegan missionary in west Africa.

Her brother’s tribute

Michael Noonan thanked neighbours, gardaí, and emergency services for their valiant response and efforts to save life at the scene of the fatal two-car collision.

In a highly emotional reflection, he prayed for all the families involved.

He said his sister had been the “focal point” and “keystone of the family”. After momentarily being overcome with grief, he paused, and added poignantly: “We will miss her very much.”

Mary Noonan qualified as a nurse in England, and was later been stationed as health and safety nurse at the Aughinish Alumina refinery, Askeaton.

In a lighter moment, Noonan told mourners his sister had delivered “innumerable children” at Limerick’s maternity hospital, which, he joked, had been “a great political asset” to him when he was canvassing the north side of Limerick.

Drawing chuckles from the congregation, he continued:

The old ladies used to say to me ‘Your sister delivered all my babies’, and when the babies were 18 years old, I used to remind them that they wouldn’t have been in the world at all only for my sister… so it was a way of getting the number one vote.

Mary Noonan had also qualified as an addiction counsellor in New York, and was later “in many a house in Co Limerick and north Kerry, helping families that were having a hard time from alcoholism.”

A bunch of flowers picked from her own garden were laid by her coffin, to symbolise her “love of nature and gardening”.

“We are returning her to Mount Trenchard to be buried among the trees and wildflowers that she loved so well,” Noonan said.

Maeve Bradley and Mary Costello

In Pallaskenry, Fr John Dunworth told Maeve Bradley’s heartbroken family the community would rally around them.

Speaking prior to the mass, Fr Dunworth said the adored mother of three had spent her much of her life-giving to others, “nursing in Saudi Arabia and in Oman”.

Fr Dunworth said Bradley’s sudden death had brought “desolation, and a feeling of betrayal by god”.

The reposing of Mary Costello will take place from 3pm-6pm tomorrow at Shanagolden Church. The mother of five will be laid to rest in Knockpatrick Cemetery following mass at noon on Wednesday.

Gardaí have appealed for witnesses to last Thursday’s fatal collision, or anyone who may have dash-cam footage of the incident, to contact them on 069 20650.

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