'Terrorism invades our town in two coffins' - Priest's hard-hitting words at funeral of Tunisia attack couple
"Today the violence of misguided ISIS terrorist fanatics invades our town in two coffins" - these are the hard-hitting words mourners at the funeral mass of Tunisia terror attack victims Larry and Martina Hayes heard this morning.
The funeral of the couple, described as 'soulmates' with a 'common love of gardening' was held exactly one week after terrorist Seifeddine Rezgui opened fire on a crowded tourist beach in the resort of Sousse, Tunisia.
At least 38 people, mostly foreigners on their summer holiday abroad, were killed in the brutal attack.
Athlone couple Larry (56) and Martina (55) were among three Irish people who were shot dead on the beach.
The funeral for the couple, who had been married 32 years, was held this morning at the Church of St Peter and Paul in Athlone town.
Father Liam Devine described Larry and Martina as 'soulmates' and said they went everywhere together.
"They shared a common interest in gardening. They were very proud of their strawberries and flowers," he said.
"Martina’s home was her castle. She was a brilliant housekeeper. You would be hard pressed to find a speck of dust in the house.
"Efforts to find fingerprints in the house proved futile, such was the pristine state of everything. The finger prints were found in their car that was in the airport awaiting their return."
He described the couple as 'private and highly respected people' who always looked forward to their annual holidays. It was their third time in Tunisia.
Father Devine told the church the violence of terrorism 'is now at our own door'.
"There is nothing - no human experience of grief and loss - that could possibly prepare a family or a community for the devastating news that filtered through to Athlone last Saturday night and Sunday morning," he told the congregation.
"The violent deaths of Larry & Martina Hayes while nearing the end of their holiday in Tunisia has left the entire community in Athlone shocked, stunned and devastated.
"It is unprecedented. Unreal. It is almost impossible to come to terms with it," he continued.
"For some time now the violence of misguided ISIS terrorist fanatics have invaded our living rooms in a sanitised, sterilised way.
"We never thought it would trouble us here in Ireland, so far away.
"Today it invades our town in two coffins. The appalling massacre of Larry and Martina Hayes and 36 others at the hands of a crazed, brain-washed fanatic on a beach in Sousse has stunned into disbelief the entire nation.
"The violence is now at our own door."
He spoke of how Tunisian people would have gathered in mosques for their Friday prayers on the day of the massacre. He described it as 'baffling' that such a 'violent atrocity' would take during the holy month of Ramadan.
"It is baffling to think that during the holy month of Ramadan (which would be equivalent to Lent in our religious tradition) a violent atrocity, claiming 38 lives would also touch the lives of people in Ireland and in a particular way bring home to us here in Athlone and Kiltoom the vicious spiral of violence that claimed the lives of Larry and Martina Hayes and also Lorna Carty from Robinstown, Co Meath," he said, mentioning the third victim of the attack.
Fr Devine also mentioned the couple's only daughter Sinead (30) and said the community were there for her 'in solidarity and quiet compassion'.
"Sinead, our prayer for you is that in this time you will feel the close touch of the caress of God into whose safe hands we entrust your loving parents," he told the church.
"We don’t have to wait for Holy Week to experience Good Friday. This is a calvary moment for the Hayes family and for you, Sinead. We, in the parish community, walk the way of the cross with you, in prayerful solidarity and quiet compassion."
In his hard-hitting homily, Fr Devine also mentioned the actions of murderer Rezgui and described it as an act of 'blasphemy'.
"It is impossible to get inside the mind of someone who would carry out such an abominable act of violence. We cannot judge people like that by our values and standards," he said.
"Word is that he mingled with his victims, joked with them and took their photos before producing the machine gun.
"How could anyone possibly believe that such an act could achieve any benefit anytime anywhere.
"There is nothing that could possibly make sense in the mountain of pain and suffering that so many innocent people have been asked to endure so needlessly.
"The massacre of innocents is always an abominable crime. When done in the name of God it is also blasphemy," he added.
The couple are to be buried in Coosan Cemetery.
Meanwhile, the funeral of mother-of-two Lorna Carty - the third Irish victim of the horrific terror attack - will take place tomorrow at the Church of the Assumption in Robinstown, Co Meath.