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13/10/2022 Pictured are search dogs Floss and Bodie outside St Michael’s Church, Creeslough, at the funeral of explosion victim Martina Martin. Eamonn Farrell

Larry Donnelly My Boston community and I are praying for the people of Creeslough

Our columnist says he couldn’t focus on anything else all week, as the country and long-distance relatives abroad offer support to the people of Donegal.

THINGS MOVE PRETTY quickly in this world. No matter how significant or exceptional an event, thanks in large part to a 24/7 news cycle and our ever-diminishing attention spans, it isn’t too long before it fades off the radar screen.

It is a sad testimony to the gravity of the devastation in Creeslough, Co Donegal that – a week after the freak explosion which killed 10 people, critically injured several and destroyed Lafferty’s Service Station, the petrol station/supermarket/post office which was the de facto hub of that rural area – so many of us cannot stop thinking about what happened.

Not a huge amount can be added to what already has been written and said very well in the wake of this horror. But for me, it has hammered home how comparatively trivial politics, the topic that usually gets examined in this space, is. And it just didn’t feel right to do the usual now.


In the review of the papers on Brendan O’Connor’s Sunday radio programme, Justine McCarthy of The Irish Times was assigned the unenviable, though necessary, the initial task of naming the victims and providing some background on them and how they came to be there on that day. To her great credit, she got through it. Her voice, laden with emotion, encapsulated the sentiments of disbelief and despair felt collectively by the nation.

In particular, this awful occurrence has had an enormous impact on the people of Donegal. Since then, the towns and villages of that beautiful place have stopped and, in different ways, commemorated the dead and conveyed sincere sympathies to their neighbours in Creeslough. Donegal remains sparsely populated. For notwithstanding this country’s prosperity, its young have continued to travel to the four corners of the globe in search of opportunity.

These women and men have similarly pressed the pause button on their new lives and gathered with previous generations of emigrants and others with ties to the northwest of Ireland in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States and further afield to offer their condolences. In Boston, at an evening Mass in St Brendan’s Church in Dorchester, a parish adjacent to my own, they prayed for the 10 who were lost and stood in solidarity from afar with the grieving. One can only hope that these small gestures have given a measure of comfort to the residents of Creeslough.

Much has correctly been made of how the community has rallied since all in the vicinity were shaken to their core by what they heard at Lafferty’s. The individuals and businesses – who rushed in immediately without regard for their own safety in a desperate attempt to aid those in peril, who have fed first responders and journalists for free and who have donated bread and milk to locals who don’t have a shop to go to anymore – are deservedly called heroes.


And in this terrible period, Creeslough is fortunate to have Father John Joe Duffy, the parish priest at St Michael’s Church. By all accounts, he is a pastor in the truest sense of the word, someone who is instinctively a friend to and an ally of everyone he meets, as well as a man of God.

Having to preside over multiple funeral Masses during this dreadful week must have been heart-wrenching for him. Yet he did a wonderful job. Father Duffy dwelled appropriately on the best qualities of the victims whose lives he and the congregation were there to celebrate, the attributes that made them special, unique and so loved by their friends and family. He also managed to intersperse some badly needed moments of levity in his homilies.

For us who share Father John Joe Duffy’s or another religious faith, this incident is extremely challenging. These 10 people were in a shop, doing something totally normal and ordinarily safe. They were not engaged in an inherently risky activity. Consequently, probably with more anger due to the innocence and randomness of the circumstances, we ask ourselves: How could God allow this fate to befall, for instance, five-year-old Shauna Flanagan Garwe, who, together with her father Robert, was buying a birthday cake for her mother?

Continued support

It is a question that has been posed on countless occasions, typically following a human tragedy. Theologians across the spectrum have grappled with this quandary and struggled mightily to arrive at a formulation that can resolve it satisfactorily for the bereaved. I don’t know if it’s possible.

Whether they will turn to their faith or elsewhere, those who were close to Shauna and Robert, Catherine O’Donnell and her son James Monaghan, Leona Harper, Jessica Gallagher, James O’Flaherty, Martin McGill, Martina Martin and Hugh Kelly will seek answers and solace.

They will require support in the days, weeks, months and years ahead. The citizens of Creeslough have been amazing on this front to date. Undoubtedly, they will not be found wanting when the spotlight is not focused there.

At the end of James O’Flaherty’s funeral, 12-year-old Hamish O’Flaherty spoke with equally abundant bravery and eloquence about his Dad, who perished inside Lafferty’s while his son waited for him outside in the car. In addition to paying a marvellous tribute to a person he adored, Hamish’s broader message was clear: Be grateful.

It’s an important lesson that this boy has learned in the most difficult fashion imaginable. Our existences are precious and fragile.

Larry Donnelly is a Boston lawyer, a Law Lecturer at the University of Galway and a political columnist with


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