Hundreds to pay last respects to bus driver and priest killed in Cork crash

Mark Wills, Fr Con Cronin to be laid to rest following separate funerals on Saturday in Ballincollig and Coomhola

Hundreds of people are expected to pay their respects on Saturday at separate funeral Masses for a bus driver and priest who died when a bus veered out of control in Monkstown, Co Cork on Tuesday.

Father of two, Mark Wills (51) from Carrigdean in Ballincollig and Fr Con Cronin (72), a native of the Borlin Valley near Bantry and curate in the Harbour Parishes of Passage West and Monkstown, both died in the collision.

It is believed Mr Wills suffered a cardiac event and lost control of his Bus Éireann single decker bus just as he was leaving Monkstown atabout 1.35pm. The bus veered across the road knocking down Fr Cronin who had just left the Bosun pub after lunch with parish secretary, Cathy Concannon.

Ms Concannon escaped injury as did a 13-year-old girl who was pushed to safety by her father as the bus careered into a number of parked cars on the waterfront. Both Mr Wills and Fr Cronin were pronounced dead at the scene.


Mr Wills, who is survived by his teenage children, Cillian and Rebecca, his parents, Stephen and Madelene and his siblings, Gwen, Stephen, Brian and Ken, will be buried following a requiem mass at 11am on Saturday which will be streamed live from the Church of St Mary and St John in Ballincollig.

Meanwhile Fr Cronin, who is survived by his brother, Teddy and sisters-in-law Margaret and Mary, lay in repose in St Mary's Church in Passage West on Friday an will also lay in repose at St Joseph's Church in Coomhola in West Cork from 10am until 12.30pm on Saturday.

Fr Cronin, who was a member of St Patrick's Missionary Society from Kiltegan, with whom he ministered in the Minna Diocese in Nigeria for over 25 years, will be buried in Kilmacomogue Cemetery in West Cork following a private funeral mass at 2pm that will be streamed live.

A tall man, standing 6ft 4in, Fr Cronin was a hugely popular figure in the parish with hundreds turning out for a candlit vigil on Tuesday night.

Parishioners, many of whom were visibly upset, heard Harbour Parishes parish priest, Fr Sean O’Sullivan paid tribute to his late colleague.

“We all wish we weren’t here ... So tonight (if he were here), Con would love to see the crowd, he wouldn’t believe they were for him. And that was the other side, he always doubted and I don’t think he ever really appreciated how much he meant to people and I hope he does now.

Fr O’Sullivan told the crowd gathered in Fr O’Flynn Park how he had travelled to the Borlin Valley earlier that day to visit Fr Cronin’s brother, Teddy and his wife, Margaret

“They wanted me to say something tonight and they said to me that Con had told them his nine years here in Passage and working the Harbour parishes were the happiest of his life and I think the reason he was so happy and he said it to me more than once was because people let him be himself.

“And that was Con’s great gift to all of us, Con was Con - and that brightened all of our lives, it enriched all of our lives and in some sense it taught us what life is about,” said Fr O’Sullivan before a number of parishioners each paid their own tribute to the late Fr Cronin.

It is expected that hundreds will again gather on Friday evening and line the streets of Passage West as Fr Cronin’s remains are brought to West Cork while people are continuing to lay floral tributes and leave messages expressing their sorrow at the spot in Monkstown where he lost his life on Tuesday.

Bishop of Cork and Ross, Fr Fintan Gavin led the tributes to Fr Cronin as he extended his sympathies to both the families of Mr Wills and Fr Cronin as well as to Fr Cronin's fellow priests in both the diocese and St Patrick's Missionary Society.

"Fr Con will be remembered for his unique sense of humour and his openness to all people . . . he established a warm rapport both pastorally and personally with all to whom he ministered and all who had contact with him," said Bishop Gavin.

Church of Ireland Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, Dr Paul Colton also expressed his condolences on the death of Fr Cronin whom he said he knew from his own work in the Lower Cork Harbour area, pointing out that he would be sadly missed by people of all faiths in the area.

"I send my deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Fr Con Cronin, his parishioners, Bishop Fintan Gavin and the priests and people of the Diocese of Cork and Ross. He was a joy to work with. I and his friends in the Church of Ireland in Cork are so sad about his death. May he rest in peace."

Local Independent County Councillor, Marcia D’Alton said Fr Cronin was a larger than life figure who endeared himself to the people of Passage West and Monkstown as she recalled how welcomed everyone to the parish irrespective of where they came from or what they believed.

“Race colour creed, it didn’t matter - you were part of Fr Con’s world, he spent his day trying to make people feel good, he made you feel appreciated and he wasn’t afraid to be himself and we all loved him for it,” Cllr D’Alton told Morning Ireland on RTE Radio One.

“It didn’t matter to Fr Con whether you were a church goer or not, he reached out to you - as far as he was concerned you were a human being and he just gave love ... - nobody could believe that somebody, who was so full of life, could be taken so suddenly.”

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times