Pope Francis was among those who sent his condolences to funeral of five of those who died in a fire in Carrickmines, Dublin 10 days ago.
Over 1,000 mourners attended the funeral of Tara Gilbert (27), Willy Lynch (25), their daughters Jodie (9) and Kelsey (4) and Willy's brother Jimmy (39) in Bray.
Shops on the main street of the town closed as five hearses carried a coffin each to the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer. The church was full to capacity as the coffins were brought in shortly before noon – first Tara’s, followed by those, smaller and white, of her daughters, followed by their father’s and finally their uncle’s.
Chief celebrant at the Mass was Fr Derek Farrell, of the Parish of the Travelling People, who described a loving couple, whose children “always came first”.
He said Willy’s brother, John, in the days after the tragedy, had said of Tara and Willy, that “God made them, God matched them”.
“They stuck like glue to one another, and bonded very well. They managed everything so well, the house, the family. They were a really happy, loving family.
“Willy cherished what he called his ‘three girls’ Tara, Kelsey and Jodie… He brought the girls everywhere with him.
“Kelsey stuck like a magnet to Willy, always wanted to be close to her daddy. Jodie meant the world to Willy as well.”
Tara, he said, was the boss, in the best way possible.
“When it came to care of her family and taking care of others, she took charge. Beautiful inside and out, always smiling, easy-going, never grumpy. A fantastic mum, her children always came first.”
She adored her father, Harry, and was best friends with her twin sister Amanda.
“They loved one another and, though not always with permission, shared everything including clothes, earrings, and hair extensions.”
He described Jimmy as “very popular” and loved by family and friends.
“He had a heart of gold and being very good with his hands, he liked to fix things, and especially to fix things for other people. He loved Elvis. Jimmy was very good to his, only quite recently deceased, beloved mother, Mary, and he was her pride and joy.”
The family, from the Fassaroe area of Bray, had been visiting Willy and Jimmy's sister Sylvia Connors (25) and her young family in Carrickmines when the fire broke out in the early morning of October 10th. Sylvia, her husband Thomas Connors (27) and their three children, Jim (5), Christy (2) and Mary (5 months), also died in the fire.
Their funeral will be in Balally, south Dublin on Thursday morning before proceeding to Wexford on Thursday evening for a prayer service there and burial on Friday.
Fr Farrell said there were “no words” that could assuage the pain of the loss of these lives.
“The only words we have are words of comfort, words of hopeful consolation and assurance that somehow together, our society will resolve that some lasting good will emerge, to ensure the death of these precious loved ones will not have been in vain.”
There had been a widespread and instinctive outpouring of support from across the settled and Traveller communities, he said.
“The flowers, messages, books of condolences, prayer vigils, Masses, the wonderful Fassaroe neighbourhood street candles and altar, the shrines, the prayers, the songs.
And all of this has been in a context of often new close relationship and interactions between settled and Traveller, united in various forms of solidarity and prayer over the past week.
“A unity perhaps no more poignantly and particularly embodied than in the loving relationship of Tara as a young settled woman and Willy as a young Traveller man, and the family they together established so beautifully.”
He brought messages of sympathy from the Pope and from Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, who is in Rome. Pope Francis said when he had learnt of the fire he felt a “deep sadness”.
He said he was praying “especially for the Gilbert, Lynch and Connors families” and he wanted to “assure the whole Traveller community of his spiritual closeness and sympathy”.
Reflections were offered by Stuart Gilbert, a nephew of Tara’s, who described her “vibrant soul and electric personality”, and described how he and his siblings always looked forward to when she would babysit them.
Some children from the extended Lynch family read a poem they had composed.
“Willy with his humour, will teach angels how to dance, and Tara always with him, now eternal their romance/ Joyful little Jodie, our lovely little girl, you’ll always be our ray of light, precious jewel and pearl/ And Kelsey like your mammy, such artistic understanding we adore you little angel, not just beautiful, but outstanding
“Tara loved her daddy, her hero and first man, and now she’s with Dolores, her ever-loving mam.
“We now pray for Amanda whose love will never end, for her twin, most precious sister, her dear forever friend.”
Music throughout the service was provided by the Trinity Ensemble.
The congregation joined in as Sarah Lynch, a niece of Jimmy, Willy and Sylvia’s sang ‘Amazing Grace’. As the coffins left the church, Kayleigh Cullinan sang, ‘I Will Always Love You’, by Whitney Houston.
Among the mourners was the Tánaiste, Joan Burton, Minister for Children, James Reilly, and leader of Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams.
The Taoiseach was represented by Cmdt David Foley. President Michael D Higgins, who is in the United States, was represented by Lieut Col Michael Kiernan.