Concepta Leonard funeral told of life spent sharing gift of music
‘Conor cared for and protected his mum’: son of murder victim praised for his courage
Family and friends follow the coffin during the funeral of Concepta Leonard at St Mary’s Church in Brookeborough, Co Fermanagh on Friday. Her son (centre right in jacket) Conor was treated in hospital for stab wounds. Photograph: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
The son of Concepta Leonard, who was killed in a suspected murder-suicide at her Co Fermanagh home, has been praised at her funeral for his courage.
The 51-year-old was stabbed to death on Monday by her former partner Peadar Phair in an incident described by her family as “appalling and horrific”.
Minutes before arriving at the house, Phair was spotted walking along Abbey Road dressed in a suit. He had parked his van at the entrance of the village and was seen by neighbours making the short journey to the home of his former partner on foot at about 3pm.
At the house, he fatally stabbed Ms Leonard and attempted to kill her son Conor, who has Down syndrome, before taking his own life.
“But in that moment of madness, Conor cared for and protected his mum,” he told mourners.“But since that time, this family, this community have stood in the light, to confront, to overcome the dark shadows that seek to destroy life.”
He added: “In such a horrific death which Connie experienced, the constant question is, ‘Why?’ Why should such a terrible thing happen to such a beautiful person?
“Where is our God in this moment of evil? . . . Many people experience and express feelings of regret. If I had been there to protect? If I had done something differently?”
Ms Leonard, he said, would not want her family or friends thinking or feeling that way.
He told mourners the funeral was to celebrate all that was “loving, tender and beautiful in Connie’s life” along with “gifts and blessings and memories that we cherish and hold close to our hearts”.
“She possessed so many beautiful gifts, but she carried them in a very unassuming, humble way.”
Ms Leonard was born into a family home filled with the sound of music and from the age of six she travelled with her father Dinnie to music sessions and fleadhs all over Ireland, winning three all-Ireland medals in accordion and piano, mourners heard.
“It was a gift she wanted to share with others, bringing so many young people into the love of the traditional music and culture. Whether it was here in Brookeborough, or Donagh or Lisnaskea. With her energy and enthusiasm, her infectious smile and the twinkle in her eye, she has left a legacy of musical talent for generations to come,” he said.
The readings were read by Ms Leonard’s brothers Kieran and Fergal and the prayers of the faithful were led by her cousins.
Symbols which represent the many qualities of Ms Leonard’s life were brought forward, including her All-Ireland Fleadh medals, her accordion, rosary beads, book of the gospels, a symbol of her cooking skills and a family photograph, presented by Conor.
Addressing mourners, Fr Gallagher said: “Conor is our future and our reason to hope.”