Anguish as families remember loved ones lost in fire horror
A commemoration marking the first anniversary of the Carrickmines fire heard the ten victims "went to bed full of expectations" with "their whole lives in front them" and nobody could have imagined the devastation that would visit their families.
Dozens of people turned out to remember the five children and five adults, including a pregnant woman who died when a fire broke out on their halting site in south Dublin on October 10 last year.
The victims included Thomas Connors (27), his wife Sylvia (30) and their three children, Jim (5) Christy (3), and six-month-old baby Mary. Sylvia's brother, Willy Lynch (25), his partner Tara Gilbert (27), who was pregnant at the time of the fire, her daughter Jodie Gilbert (9), and their daughter Kelsey (4) also died in the fire. Willy and Sylvia's brother Jimmy Lynch (39) also passed away.
The Lynch, Connors and Gilbert families were joined by friends and Housing Minister Simon Coveney at two Masses yesterday to mark 12 months since the blaze. The first Mass was held in Sandyford and the second in Bray.
The family also gathered at a plaque which has been erected at the site of the fire. Children of the deceased were among those who attended prayers at the shrine, led by Fr Derek Farrell, parish priest of the Parish of the Travelling Family.
In Bray, a statement was read out on behalf of the Lynch family, which thanked everyone who had offered support since the fire.
It said the families would never come to terms with their loss but will learn to cope, with the support of their communities.
The lives of three families changed forever with the devastating tragedy which shocked the world, the Lynch family said.
The victims "went to bed full of expectations and had their whole lives in front of them".
"Not in anybody's worst nightmare could we have imagined what lay ahead, what devastation all of the extended families would wake up to the next morning."
Harry Gilbert, dad of Tara who also read a prayer alongside Tara's twin sister Amanda, also spoke to offer thanks on behalf of his family.
He thanked the fire service, the gardai and his own personal network, including friends and his employer.
Sarah Lynch, a niece of Jimmy and Willy, sang Amazing Grace and dedicated the song to her deceased loved ones and said: "I love you and miss you from the bottom of my heart."
Each of the victims of the tragedy was remembered with a candle - 11 of which were carried to the alters in two processions to open the ceremony. The unborn baby was remembered as Baby Angel during proceedings.
Thomas and Sylvia were remembered as a couple who were seen as a "match made in heaven... they never left each other's side and were the best mother and father any children could ask for", Fr Farrell said.
Their young sons, Jim and Christy, were very close as brothers and to the rest of the family and were very clever for their age, he said.
Baby Mary was "much treasured by the whole family" the congregation heard.
Meanwhile, Willy and Tara were also remembered as loving parents.
"God made them, God matched them... They were a really happy, loving family.
"Willy cherished what he called his three girls" while his partner Tara was "beautiful inside and out and was always smiling", Fr Farrell said.
"Tara and Willy's child was joyfully anticipated," he added.
Willie and Sylvia's brother Jimmy, who also perished in the fire, was recalled as a popular man who had a "heart of gold".
Fr Farrell appealed for the deaths of the ten family members to be a "turning point" in the relationship between Travellers, the State and settled people.
"We cannot let the good aspects that came out of the tragedy vanish," he said.
"A generous and committed response is needed from all quarters and at all levels - personal, community, church, and state. The building of mutual relationship, respect, understanding and valuing of identity is possible and - with goodwill and determination - within our grasp," he added.
Fr Dermot Lane, speaking in Balally church, said the painful memory of the tragedy must be kept alive to force us to ask uncomfortable questions.
"Has anything changed in society in our relationships with the Travelling community in the last 12 months?" he asked.
He also asked if safeguards had been put in place to prevent a similar tragedy.