Hundreds of mourners attend first funerals for Donegal explosion victims

Ten people were killed in the blast at a service station and shop in the village of Creeslough on Friday.

11 October 2022

Hundreds of mourners have attended the first funerals of those killed in an explosion at a service station in Ireland.

Two of the 10 victims – Jessica Gallagher and Martin McGill – were laid to rest after funeral masses in Creeslough, Co Donegal.

The president of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, and the country’s premier, Micheal Martin, were represented at the services by officials from the Irish Defence Forces. Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill was present as well.

Explosion at Donegal service station
The coffin of Jessica Gallagher, 24, leaves St Michael’s Church in Creeslough (Niall Carson/PA)

Emergency responders who took part in the 24-hour recovery operation at the blast site also attended.

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

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

The first Mass on Tuesday was for Ms Gallagher, who was remembered for her “love, affection, kindness and warmth”.

After her body was carried into the church in a wicker coffin, Creeslough parish priest Father John Joe Duffy extended his “sincere and heartfelt sympathies” to her parents Anthony and Bernie, her two sisters and her boyfriend Conor.

In his homily, Fr Duffy said Ms Gallagher “radiated a warm and positive feeling” to all who knew her well.

He described her as the “jewel” of her family.

The priest said she left ripples of “love, affection, kindness and warmth” wherever she went.

“We are experiencing – you, the family, are experiencing – that most difficult challenge of all: the pain and hardship of having to say goodbye to Jessica today,” he said.

Explosion at Donegal service station
Fashion designer Jessica Gallagher (Garda/PA)

“That pain and hardship that other families are experiencing, and I know that other families have been with you that have lost a loved one and those who have a loved one in hospital at this time.

“That pain has been felt in our parish and in our neighbouring parishes when the pathway in which Jessica and others were travelling through life was so abruptly ended by this tragic accident.

“I wish I, as a priest, could explain that more fully in a way that words could explain it, but we do not have words to explain it, for words would make no sense or couldn’t give it sense.

“I am part of you, part of this community, and it is together that we will make the journey and travel that journey going forward, supporting each other as so many people have been doing.

“Our entire community is hurting, our hearts are heavy, but our spirits are strong.”

Explosion at Donegal service station
Martin McGill (Garda/PA)

Fr Duffy also presided at the funeral for Mr McGill in the same church later in the day.

In his homily, he spoke of the 49-year-old’s devotion in caring for his mother Mary.

“Martin was a carer who was full of love, full of kindness and full of compassion,” he said.

Mr McGill was originally from Kirkintilloch near Glasgow, and was a lifelong Celtic fan. He moved to Co Donegal in 2001.

Explosion at Donegal service station
Mourners carrying the coffin of Martin McGill outside St Michael’s Church in Creeslough (Niall Carson/PA).

Fr Duffy said it would have meant a lot to him that the Old Firm club had made a donation to a support fund for the Creeslough victims and that its players will wear black armbands at their next match as a mark of respect.

The priest said Mr McGill had the “most beautiful soul”.

“A gentle soul, a kind person,” he added.

Fr Duffy said Mr McGill was routinely in the shop where he died, carrying messages for other people.

IRISH Donegal WhatWeKnow
(PA Graphics)

“It was, I suppose, against the odds that Martin would not have been in the shop, for he went to the shop five times a day or more to bring those errands out for people,” he said.

At the close of the funeral, mourners sang along to the Celtic anthem, You’ll Never Walk Alone.

The 10 victims were aged from five to 59.

The other eight 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; 48-year-old James O’Flaherty; 14-year-old Leona Harper; 39-year-old Catherine O’Donnell and her 13-year-old son James Monaghan; 59-year-old Hugh Kelly; and 49-year-old Martina Martin.

Mr O’Flaherty’s funeral will be at St Mary’s Church in Derrybeg, Co Donegal, on Wednesday morning.

A joint service will be held for Ms O’Donnell and her son James at St Michael’s in Creeslough on Wednesday afternoon.

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.

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