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Creeslough has set template for the world in power of community, mourners told

More funerals took place on Wednesday of the victims of an explosion at a service station in the Co Donegal village last Friday.

12 October 2022

The village of Creeslough has given a gift to the rest of the world in setting a template for the power of community when dealing with tragedy, a priest has said.

Fr John Joe Duffy was speaking as more funerals took place on Wednesday of those who died in an explosion at a service station in the Co Donegal village last Friday.

Irish president Michael D Higgins attended the funerals and met the families of the bereaved.

At the funeral of James O’Flaherty, his son Hamish told mourners that they should cherish life and family.

Explosion at Donegal service station
Catherine O’Donnell and her son James Monaghan, two of the ten victims (An Garda Siochana/PA)

Later the funeral took place of Catherine O’Donnell, 39, and her son James Monaghan, 13, at St Michael’s Church in Creeslough.

Fr Duffy told the joint funeral service that James was a child about to “launch into life”.

He said: “We think of James. We think of a plane that is slowly taxiing down a runway, about to take off. That was James.

“He was just a child taxiing down the runway about to take off into his teenage years. He was just about to launch into life.

Explosion at Donegal service station
The coffins of James Monaghan and his mother Catherine O’Donnell are carried into St Michael’s Church, Creeslough (Brian Lawless/PA)

“It is no wonder, under such circumstances, that words fail us this afternoon.”

The congregation heard that James’s mother was “bubbly” and “full of life”.

“She was very intelligent and she loved parties,” Fr Duffy told mourners. “She loved organising parties.”

He continued: ““Those visible good deeds we have all seen since Friday give us hope, lift us up and break into that terrible grief to give somewhat of a little consolation.

Explosion at Donegal service station
Priest Fr John Joe Duffy hailed the power of community in Creeslough (Niall Carson/PA)

“The days of Friday and Saturday, one thing that struck so many people is not the clatter of words being spoken at the scene, what stuck us most was the silence.

“A mass silence of people gathered to support one another, and that has been the story of this community in these days.

“Creeslough, maybe, out of all of this suffering and pain, had given a gift to the rest of the world.

“A new understanding of what it means to be community.

Explosion at Donegal service station
James O’Flaherty (An Garda Siochana/PA)

“The strength of our people in tragedy has set a template for the world about how in the midst of the greatest pain and grief we are strongest when we rely on each other, support one another.”

Earlier in the day, hundreds attended the funeral of James O’Flaherty at St Mary’s Church in Derrybeg, Co Donegal.

Mr O’Flaherty, an engineer, was originally from Sydney in Australia but had been living in Dunfanaghy, a few miles from Creeslough, with his wife Tracey and son Hamish, 12.

Pupils from Faugher National School, which Hamish attends, provided a guard of honour as his father’s remains were taken into the church.

Delivering an address at the funeral, Hamish said his father was a “great man”.

He added: “I would like to say thank you to all of the people who have given and offered so many things. The emergency services too, who were there within 15 minutes and also came to the wake.

“I would also like to say something I have learnt in the past week or so: We should be grateful. For your families, cherish them, be grateful for they won’t be there forever.

“Use the time you have wisely.

Explosion at Donegal service station
Michael D Higgins speaks to the media as he leaves the funeral mass for James O’Flaherty (Niall Carson/PA)

“Also, be grateful for your life because that too will not last forever.”

The congregation gave Hamish a round of applause.

Father Brian O Fearraigh said a light of friendship, love and support had come out of the Creeslough tragedy.

He told the mourners: “We have all experienced since Friday afternoon that grief knows no boundaries.

Explosion at Donegal service station
The coffin of James O’Flaherty is carried into St Mary’s Church, Derrybeg (Niall Carson/PA)

“The tragic event and the effects of the Creeslough catastrophe, which is beyond comprehension, knows no bounds.

“The intensity and the awfulness of the tragedy has reverberated near and far. Away beyond the shores of this beautiful country of ours.

“The outpouring of support and messages of condolence and offers of help that we have heard and witnessed, all has been overwhelming.

“Parochial, county, country boundaries, have been crossed. Hands of support and friendship have been offered.

“In crossing such boundaries we have seen how, from the shadow and out of the depths of the darkness of this terrible tragedy, a most beautiful and radiant and divine light of friendship, love and support has shone and continues to shine brightly.”

Donegal graphic
(PA Graphics)

Authorities in Ireland continue to investigate the cause of the explosion in a building complex which included a service station, shop and apartments.

It is being treated as a “tragic accident”. A gas leak is believed to be one theory.

The funerals of two of the 10 victims, Jessica Gallagher and Martin McGill, were held in Creeslough on Tuesday.

The victims were aged from five to 59.

The other victims were 50-year-old Robert Garwe and his five-year-old daughter Shauna Flanagan Garwe, who were in the shop to buy a birthday cake; 14-year-old Leona Harper; 59-year-old Hugh Kelly; and 49-year-old Martina Martin.

Ms Harper’s funeral will take place at St Mary’s Church in Ramelton, Co Donegal, on Thursday.

Mrs Martin, a mother of four, will also be laid to rest on Thursday with a service at St Michael’s.

Mr Kelly will be laid to rest at St Michael’s on Friday.

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