Tuesday 25 October 2016

The 'poignant unity' of young couple recalled as fire victims are laid to rest

Hundreds gathered in Bray as victims of fire were laid to rest
Hundreds gathered in Bray as victims of fire were laid to rest

The love between a tragic young couple killed in the Carrickmines fire tragedy transcended cultural divides and brought the settled and Traveller communities together in a "poignant unity".

The first victims of the Carrickmines fire tragedy were laid to rest in Bray, Co Wicklow, yesterday, where Fr Derek Farrell of the Parish of the Travelling People delivered a moving eulogy to the hundreds of mourners who had gathered.

Pregnant Tara Gilbert (27), her partner Willy Lynch (25) and their two young daughters, Jodie (9) and Kelsey (4), were all interred in the town's Springfield cemetery alongside Mr Lynch's brother Jimmy (39), following a moving, music-filled ceremony.

In an emotional farewell to the family who were lost in the flames, Fr Farrell told the congregation that Willy and Tara were a loving couple whose children "always came first".


"They were brought together in a loving unity," he said.

"A unity perhaps no more poignantly and particularly embodied than in the loving relationship of Tara as a young settled woman and Willy as a young Traveller man and the family they together established so beautifully."

Pope Francis yesterday expressed his "deep sadness" after the horrific fire ripped through the south Dublin halting site, claiming the lives of 10 people - the biggest loss of life due to fire since the Stardust nightclub tragedy in 1981.

Mourners in Bray's Church of the Most Holy Redeemer sobbed as the Pope's message was delivered in front of two small, glistening white coffins that lay together beside those of their parents and uncle.

"The Holy Father prays especially for those who have died and he wishes to assure all their family members, their friends and the whole Traveller community of his spiritual closeness and sympathy at this very difficult time," said Bishop Eamonn Walsh.

Delivering a message from Willy's brother John, Fr Farrell said the couple "stuck like glue to one another".

"They managed everything so well, the house, the family. They were a really happy, loving family," he said.

"Willy cherished what he called his 'three girls', Tara, Kelsey and Jodie. He brought the girls everywhere with him. Kelsey stuck like a magnet to Willy and always wanted to be close to her daddy. Jodie meant the world to Willy as well.

"Tara was the boss, in the best possible way. When it came to the care of her family and taking care of others, she took charge. She was beautiful inside and out, always smiling, easy-going, never grumpy. A fantastic mum, her children always came first.

"She adored her father Harry and was best friends with her twin sister Amanda."

Fr Farrell described Jimmy as a "fiercely popular" young man who was loved by family and friends.

"He had a heart of gold and was very good with his hands. He liked to fix things, and especially to fix things for other people," he said.

"He loved his bikes, nature and hunting. He loved Elvis."

Fr Farrell commented that only the families themselves can know the reality of what their loss actually means, as he thanked everyone for their support.

"There has been so much good done and goodwill shown. The flowers, messages, books of condolences, prayer vigils, Masses, the wonderful Fassaroe neighbourhood street candles and altar, the shrines, the prayers, the songs," he said.


Tara's nephew Stuart Gilbert described his aunt as a "vibrant soul" who had an "electric personality", adding that he and his sisters loved when she would come and babysit them.

The family, from Fassaroe, had been visiting Willy and Jimmy's sister Sylvia (25) and her young family in Carrickmines when the fire broke out during the early hours of October 10.

Among the mourners was the Tanaiste Joan Burton, Minister for Children James Reilly and the leader of Sinn Fein Gerry Adams.

The Taoiseach was represented by Commandant David Foley.

President Michael D Higgins, who is in the United States, was represented by Lieutenant Colonel Michael Kiernan.

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