Tributes paid to Irishman who died skiing on Swiss Alps

Father says 32-year-old son was ‘beautiful, independent’ and ‘much-loved’

Irishman Michael Clifford (32) died in a skiing accident on the Swiss Alps on St Stephen’s Day.

Irishman Michael Clifford (32) died in a skiing accident on the Swiss Alps on St Stephen’s Day.

Sat, Jan 4, 2014, 01:00

An Irishman who died in a skiing accident on the Swiss Alps on St Stephen’s Day was described at his requiem Mass yesterday as a courageous, free spirit who packed an extraordinary amount into his short life.

University College Cork graduate Michael Clifford (32) was based in Horgen, Switzerland, where he worked as a risk analyst in the financial services sector.

The native of Ballyagran, Co Limerick, worked for global management firm Partners Group. He was an experienced skier and rock climber.

At his 11am requiem Mass yesterday at the Church of the Descent of the Holy Spirit in Dennehy’s Cross, Cork, Michael’s father David said burying his son went against the natural order of life.

“It is not right that I should be here today. There is an ‘ochón’ in our hearts that will be there for the rest of our lives. Without all your prayers, love and support I don’t know how we could get through this nightmare.”

Mr Clifford said it was his and his wife’s Patricia’s privilege to rear Michael. He told the large congregation of mourners that Michael was a “beautiful, strong, independent” and much loved son, brother and godparent.

“He was a man who was a great colleague and a better friend. He packed a lot into his 32 years.

“Michael lived life not close to the edge but on the edge. That is where the adrenaline flowed. He made [Switzerland] his home – mastering the language and becoming more Swiss than the Swiss themselves. Every weekend there were mountains to be climbed and slopes to be skied.”

Mr Clifford also thanked his son’s girlfriend Sara for her love and assistance over the last few days. He paid tribute to Swiss Alpine Rescue and all those who helped the family bring Michael home.

Offertory gifts were brought to the altar by Michael’s nieces and his godparents.

Fr Tom Clancy, who celebrated the Mass alongside seven other priests, said the family and friends of Michael Clifford had “talked, cried and laughed” over the last few days as they gathered to share memories and admire photographs of a much loved son and brother.

Fr Clancy asked mourners to trust in God as they continued on their journey through life.

Michael Clifford was laid to rest at Coleman’s Well cemetery in Charleville. His family requested that donations be made to Swiss Air Rescue in lieu of flowers.

Michael came from a well-known family who ran the local post office in Ballyagran, Co Limerick. His father David was also a secondary school teacher at the Salesian College in Pallaskenry while his mother Patricia taught at Scoil Carmel in Limerick city.

Michael’s parents retired and moved to Wilton in Cork a number of years ago. He is survived by his father David, mother Patricia, sister Eleanor and brothers David, William and Patrick. He is a first cousin of Limerick Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins who attended the funeral yesterday. The Bishop of Cork and Ross, Dr John Buckley, was also present at the Mass.

Michael’s death brings to at least five the number of people who have died in the Alps in recent days. He was one of two people who died in skiing accidents in Switzerland on St Stephen’s Day. Another skier died in the Swiss ski resort of St Moritz.

Mr Clifford was alone at the time of his accident. His girlfriend raised the alarm when he failed to return to his hotel. It is understood he was struck by a slab of ice while skiing off-piste.

The Department of Foreign Affairs provided consular assistance to the Clifford family.

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