herald

Sunday 30 April 2017

Heartache as hundreds pay tearful tribute to blaze victims

Holly and Jordan’s grandparents, John and Bridie O’Brien, are consoled at the funeral home
Holly and Jordan’s grandparents, John and Bridie O’Brien, are consoled at the funeral home

A pregnant woman and three young children who died in a horrific fire last week are due to be laid to rest today.

The funeral of Annemarie O'Brien (27) and her daughter Paris (2), and Holly (3) and Jordan McGinn (4), was due to take place at St Anne's Church in Shankill.

All four died in the blaze at the Cluainin Cronan apartment complex in Clondalkin on Wednesday morning.

Holly and Jordan's mother Biddy O'Brien remains in a critical condition in St James's Hospital.

Ms O'Brien and her children were visiting her cousin Annemarie when the blaze broke out at the women's refuge.

The fire occurred on the first floor of the complex, which is run by the Sonas charity.

Stunned

It is understood gardai are investigating whether a candle burning near the television in a corner of the apartment was the cause of the blaze.

Yesterday there were scenes of stunned grief at Colliers funeral home in Bray, Co Wicklow, where relatives and friends gathered to pay their respects.

From 1pm onwards, mourners arrived and comforted each other, some having to be led away as they were overcome by grief.

Inside the funeral home, the coffins lay together as mourners filed by, gently laying a kiss or a loving touch on Annemarie, Paris and Jordan.

Mourners arrive at the funeral home for yesterday’s service
Mourners arrive at the funeral home for yesterday’s service

Teddy bears topped the coffins of Holly and Annemarie's unborn son, AJ.

Surrounding them were photographs depicting the vibrant lives they lived.

One was of Annemarie holding Paris in her arms. Both had a hand around Annemarie's tummy where baby AJ was growing.

Balloons depicting cartoon characters such as Peppa Pig and Spider-Man floated in the air at the back of the room. The only sound was weeping.

Four hundred people from all over the country arrived in solidarity and left in tears.

Annemarie's partner, Sean Patel, and Biddy's husband, Jamie, were both present at the poignant service and were embraced by all as they arrived.

Fr Paul O'Driscoll, who ministers for the Travelling community, and Fr John O'Connor, from Shankill, who conducted the marriage of Biddy and Jamie, said prayers.

"We've come together this evening to pay our respects to the dead and ask for their eternal rest. We pray that the Lord grants eternal rest to Annemarie, Paris, baby AJ, to Jordan and to Holly," said Fr O'Connor.

"We ask the good Lord to bless their families and their friends, and all their loved ones," he added.

Nightmare

After the prayer service, Fr O'Driscoll said the families are only getting through their ordeal "breath by breath".

"It's like a nightmare," he said. "They wonder is it really happening.

"One minute they are OK. It is like the tide. The tide goes out and they are grand for a few little moments, then it comes back in again and they are back to square one. So it is a rollercoaster.

"When somebody familiar stands in front of them, the emotion is very deep."

Today's funeral, as well as aspects of yesterday's prayer service, were recorded so that they can be played to Biddy at a later date should she recover from her devastating injuries.

Bray Traveller Development Group spokesman Jim O'Brien, who is a cousin of Annemarie, said the cross-community outpouring of grief in the wake of the tragedy has been something that all who have lost loved ones in the fire recognise and embrace.

"We have seen with our own eyes the expression of grief from the wider community," he said.

"We have acknowledged and embraced that, just as we did after the Carrickmines tragedy, which claimed 10 lives 17 months ago.

"Back then, we hoped we would never have to experience such loss again, but here we are today."

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