Funerals take place in Donegal for women killed on way home from holidays

Margaret McGonigle, Maireád Mundy and Racheal Battles laid to rest

The loss of three Donegal women in a road collision was "very difficult for the human heart and mind," the priest officiating at their funerals told mourners on Monday.

Hundreds gathered at the church in Bruckless for the funerals of Margaret McGonigle (69) and her daughter Maireád Mundy (37) and her best friend Racheal Cassidy Battles (39) who were killed while driving home from Dublin Airport after a summer holiday .

They had been to Turkey to celebrate Maireád's first wedding anniversary to her husband Padraic Mundy .

Her son Caoimhin O’Neill (13)helped push his mother’s coffin as it was taken towards the cemetery behind his grandmother’s remains. He was with his stepfather Padraic in another car when his mother and grandmother died. He was later guard of honour at Racheal’s funeral in the afternoon.

Counsellor

Parish priest Fr James Sweeney recalled that Margaret became an accredited counsellor and was "to the fore" in setting up the Donegal Rape Crisis organisation. She worked in different areas helping others with their trauma and difficulties.

He read a note from one of her clients: “Mags, I don’t know where to start how to express how grateful I am to you. I have battled with my mental health for many years and thought it was something I would just have to live with. That was until I met you. You have changed my life completely, saved me as a person. You are an incredible woman. ”

Mourners heard how Margaret's daughter Maireád Mundy was such a home-lover that when she was sent to Glenties, 25 kilometres away, as a 16-year-old she returned after three days because she was homesick. The congregation heard how Maireád danced in All-Ireland and Ulster championships.

Fr Sweeney recalled that Maireád married Declan O’Neill in 2002 and they had Caoimhin. Declan died in 2009. Some years later she met Padraic they married a year ago in nearby Killybegs.

Maireád worked in Baskins Café in Dunkineely, three kilometres from her home. Her most famous customer was Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker who has a holiday home in the vicinity.

Wonderful presence

At Racheal's Mass, Fr Sweeney described her as a wonderful presence in the community. He recalled that she was reared in Ardara by her grandmother Ellen Cassidy and her uncles. She later cared for her ailing grandmother, who was at the funeral in a wheelchair with her mother, Helen.

Rachel was working as a bartender in nearby Killybegs when she met her husband Martin and they moved to Bruckless three years ago. He described Racheal as a wonderful presence in the community. Her loss, and the loss of her friends Mairead and Margaret, were “overwhelming and very difficult for the human heart and mind.”

Operations in Co Donegal’s two District courts were severely restricted as two judges attended the funerals in an expression of sympathy for court clerk Geoffrey McGonigle, whose mother and sister were victims of the tragedy.

Messages of condolence continued to be written Facebook yesterday. Among them was one from Racheal’s younger sister Nicole O’Leary. It read: “My heart is absolutely broken. I don’t know how we’ll ever get over this. You were my role model, inspiration, second mammy.”

Nicole promised that she would care for Racheal’s four children, including six year-old daughter Danni who was hospitalised following the crash and was allowed home on Sunday night.

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