Westport remembers Finbar Cafferkey at anniversary ceremony

Colm Cafferkey says the reality of his brother’s death in the battle for Bakhmut ‘refuses to land on me’

A brother of Achill Island native Finbar Cafferkey killed in Ukraine last April while assisting local forces told a large gathering in Westport, Co Mayo on Saturday that the reality of Finbar’s death has so far failed to dawn on him.

Colm Cafferkey spoke briefly at a remembrance ceremony in St Mary’s Church, Westport, about his only brother who died in the battle for Bakhmut. His body has never been recovered.

“I loved my brother Finbar but now, I’m told, he’s gone, killed last April near Bakhmut like so many others. He’s gone, I’m told, but the reality refuses to land on me.

“I can still feel him alive all around me. I can still see his smile and feel the safety of his presence.


“I can feel his steady guidance helping me along, steering me right. I can feel his courage around me for when I might need it. I can feel his kindness and I can hear his big laugh at something he found funny. If only in my heart, he lives on.

“Let us honour the sisters, brothers, parents, sisters and friends who have fallen in the war. Let their laughter, kindness and love live on through us and let’s build the loving world that they deserved”.

Finbar Cafferkey (45) died in a Russian mortar strike along with two other foreign fighters. Efforts to retrieve his body have so far proved unsuccessful.

Several hundred people, many of them Ukrainians who have fled the war in their own country, gathered at The Octagon, Westport and later in the local church, for ceremonies to mark the two-year anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion.

Welcoming the large crowd, Judy Quinlan of Westport Welcomes Ukrainians (WWU), said: “Many of the people here today have lost more than we can imagine.

“But you are strong and you put on a brave face and go to work and raise your families. Remember, we are your friends and on the bad days you can lean on us and we will support you.”

Ms Quinlan made special mention of Finbar Cafferkey. “He was killed fighting for Ukrainian freedom from Russian terror. His family must be so proud of him. We want to thank his parents [Tom and Celine] for raising such a hero.”

Photos of Ukrainian soldiers who have died fighting for their country were held up by grieving relatives, a gesture described afterwards by Michael Loftus, Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, as “extremely moving”.

Cllr Loftus said he was astonished at the level of support that had come from the people of Mayo for the Ukrainian people and he pledged to continue that support “for as long as we have to”.

Westport parish priest Fr John Kenny hosted the church remembrance service which featured prayers, songs and poetry readings and a reading of A Letter from Heaven by Finbar Cafferkey’s aunt, Phylomena Heaney.

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