Capt Dara Fitzpatrick ‘kind to her core’, funeral mass told

Irish Coast Guard pilot’s love of family, loyalty and sense of justice recalled


The day Capt Dara Fitzpatrick adopted her son Fionn “was one of the happiest days of her life”, her funeral Mass heard.

“Fionn, now embodies Dara’s characteristics of family; he loves to and often instigates the family group hug,” Fr Andrew O’ Sullivan told mourners at St Patrick’s’s Church in Glencullen, Co Dublin.

“Dara adored Fionn,” the parish priest recalled, and “her family was of paramount importance to her”.

Among the descriptions Fr O’Sullivan gave for Capt Fitzpatrick, who died with three colleagues when their Irish Coast Guard helicopter crashed on a rescue mission earlier this week, were “fiercely loyal”, “kind to her core”, and “a champion of the underdog”.

A host of professional colleagues, from the Coast Guard and Naval Service, the Air Corps and RNLI, the Garda and Fire Services, and other emergency first responders were joined by the president, Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Enda Kenny – back from his St Patrick’s week trip to the US, to express collective sorrow, admiration and appreciation for a life lived bravely, to the full, and ultimately given up in the service of others.

The tiny granite church of St Patrick was filled to capacity - some 250 mourners taking up every pew seat with perhaps 50 more standing at the rear.

There was seating for over 100 more in the library next door and, as dank wind and rain gave way to intermittent sun, many more people stood in the churchyard.

‘Profoundly sad’

In his homily, Fr O’ Sullivan said: “This church, over the years of its history, has seen many sad and tragic funerals, but few can have been as profoundly sad and sorrowful as the funeral that gathers us here today.

“The news of Dara’s death was a message that shocked and saddened all who knew Dara and her family.”

As the news unfolded about the tragedy which claimed her life and that of her three colleagues, “our hearts broke for this outstanding crew and their families.

“As we honour Dara today with the rites of Christian funeral we are also very mindful of Dara’s three crew members who have yet to be found, and we commend them to God and we keep them and their families foremost in our thoughts and prayers during this Mass that their nightmare of waiting may soon be over.

“The reality of death with all its pain and sense of terrible loss, confronts us at this moment. But as we are united in sorrow, we are also united by something else — our faith.”

He continued: “Through our presence here in such great numbers we are stating publicly that we too recognise the blessing that Dara was. We are expressing gratitude to the Fitzpatrick family for moulding Dara into that wonderful young woman and mother that she was.

“Over the last few days many stories have been told about Dara and how she was a wonderful colleague and friend and indeed of the incredible professionalism and bravery of those in the Coast Guard and in our emergency services. How these extraordinary people put their own lives at risk in order to save others — what bravery. And they truly are heroes.

‘A champion of the underdog’

“Dara loved travelling and had so many adventures. She was not only a professional and talented pilot and excelled in what she did, but also, a great horsewoman, she loved donkeys; a hillwalker and an adventurer.

“Dara was quite shy and she hated ‘small talk’. She was kind to her core and a champion of the underdog. She was fiercely loyal and her family was of paramount importance to her.... Her family describe her sense of humour as ‘goofy’ and she had a great ability to find the fun in life.

“I know today, that Dara’s family take great consolation in the fact that she lived life to the full — she packed a lot in. Dara loved to cook and as her sisters say — she was a feeder — she made a mean chocolate roulade for her work colleagues and for home.

“Dara loved her clothes and most especially her Gucci boots and her Tom Ford perfume. As her family put it: a beautiful young woman, who of course, got her looks from her family.

Fr O’ Sullivan also spoke of the day that Capt Fitzpatrick adopted her Fionn, describing it as “one of the happiest days of her life and that of her family.”

He said that the three-year-old, who was “adored” by his mother, now “embodies Dara’s characteristics of family — he loves to and often instigates the family group hug.

“A tragic death like this teaches us suddenly and painfully something deeply true. Life, too, is so important. There would be no such sense of loss and grief unless we suddenly saw that life is very precious. When a life is torn away from us, then, we see that our friends, people, life are all that matter.”

Capt Fitzpatrick, who was 45, died with colleagues Mark Duffy, Ciarán Smith and Paul Ormsby, when their Sikorsky helicopter, which was on a support rescue mission late last Monday, was lost at sea just off the north-west Mayo coast near Belmullet.

A minute’s silence will be held before the start of the Ireland-England rugby match at the Aviva stadium on Saturday afternoon for Capt Fitzpatrick and her three missing colleagues.

Capt Fitzpatrick is survived by Fionn, who she adopted three years ago after he had lost his birth mother, as well as her parents, John and Mary Fitzpatrick, her sisters Niamh, Orla and Emer, and brother Johnny. She was predeceased, 39 years to the day before her own death, by a sister, Anna, who died at birth.