Updated / Friday, 14 Oct 2022 13:15
By Eileen Magnier, North West Correspondent of RTE
Mourners at the funeral of 59-year-old Hugh Kelly in Creeslough, Co Donegal, were told he was a man “who enjoyed a good time, a happy man with a cheeky grin, a man who the family knew and loved so well.”
Mr Kelly was the oldest person to have died in the explosion at a service station that killed ten people last Friday.
Four men, three women, two teenagers and a five-year-old girl died in blast.
Father John Joe Duffy welcomed the congregation, which included emergency workers and volunteer first responders who attended the scene last week, as people lined the main street of the village ahead of the funeral Mass at 11am.
Fr Duffy said Mr Kelly could always be relied on and made so many things – a wall behind the church, a jewelry box for his niece and so many fairy doors for his sister’s garden.
He said Mr Kelly grew up in Doe and was a bit of a daredevil on the castle wall, spent time in England and had a lot of close scrapes in recent years including his battle with cancer, but he had received good news in Galway that he was in remission.
He told Mr Kelly’s partner Linda that she is “very much in their hearts” at this time.
Symbols representing Mr Kelly’s life were brought to the altar – the jewellery box that he made “representing his ability to turn his hand to so many things”, a picture of him with his granddaughter to represent his love for his family, a pot of blackberry jam, reminiscent of the hours he spent picking blackberries for jam to share with others, and a recent photograph of him in a corn field.
Mr Kelly worked in farming and construction during his life and leaves behind his partner Linda, her daughter and grandchild, his brother and two sisters.
Fr Duffy said many families are still in shock and are numb.
He spoke of the great support the community has within itself and the support it is receiving from across the world, “the vibrations of that support is what is carrying us” he said.
He again encouraged people affected by the tragedy to avail of the supports being made available.
The mind is fragile he said and “we need the help and continued embrace of the country and beyond it”.
The parents of 14-year-old Leona Harper, another of the victims, and whose funeral took place yesterday, were at the service.
The funerals of Jessica Gallagher, 24, and Martin McGill, 49,from Dunbartonshire, were held in Creeslough on Tuesday, while those of Catherine O’Donnell, 39, and her son James Monaghan, 13, were held in Creeslough on Wednesday afternoon. A service for James O’Flaherty, 48, was held on Wednesday morning in Derrybeg. Mother-of-four Martina Martin, 49, was buried yesterday.
President Michael D Higgins was among the mourners today at St Michael’s and will remain in Donegal to attend the funeral in St Michael’s tomorrow morning of Robert Garwe and his five-year-old daughter Shauna Flanagan Garwe, the youngest person killed in the tragedy.
Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue and Fine Gael TD Joe McHugh were also among those present today.
Community has gained ‘strength’ from people around Ireland
Earlier, Fr Duffy said the community has been able to “gain strength” from the many prayers and vigils held in Ireland and around the world in the aftermath of the tragedy.
He said he is particularly heartened that Pope Francis is keeping the community in his prayers.
“The reality is that the people of this community experienced things no one should ever have to experience,” he said.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Fr Duffy appealed for continued prayers and practical support in the months ahead as he described a very long journey ahead for the community of Creeslough.
Bishop of Raphoe Alan McGuckian has spoken of people suffering from a “sense of guilt” they were not caught up in the Creeslough tragedy.
Speaking to the BBC, he said: “We all have that sense almost of guilt, on the one hand it’s relief that it wasn’t me or it wasn’t my sister or my son, and then the guilt about feeling that, that it wasn’t mine but it was this beautiful person here.
“There is this randomness that is scary … this could happen at every moment.”
He described being at the scene of the explosion, saying: “I don’t think I have ever seen anything sadder.
“I was standing close to a couple who were about to identify their beloved who had just been taken out of the building, and it was just incredibly heart wrenching. There were no words, you were just there with the person.
“The solidarity, the tsunami of prayer that has come has carried people.”
He described Fr Duffy as being a “rock” for the people, adding: “He is convinced he is being carried by the prayers of so many people.
“He would say he is getting strength from outside himself to go and meet the family… He’s very clear that people’s prayers are giving him help to speak the right words.”
Solidarity & Love with all those affected by the tragedy.