herald

Monday 18 December 2017

Berkeley tragedy sister 'will be with me, 110pc', says Amanda

San Francisco Rose Amanda Donohoe, whose sister Ashley and cousin Olivia Burke died in the Berkeley tragedy
San Francisco Rose Amanda Donohoe, whose sister Ashley and cousin Olivia Burke died in the Berkeley tragedy

San Francisco Rose Amanda Donohoe has told how taking part in the festival has been a "healing process" following the tragic deaths of her sister and cousin.

Amanda (19) lost her sister Ashley and cousin Olivia Burke on June 16, 2015, in the Berkeley balcony collapse.

Students Eimear Walsh, Lorcan Miller, Niccolai Schuster and Eoghan Culligan were also killed in the California tragedy.

Amanda said her late sister and cousin were "in The Dome with me" as she took to the stage in Tralee last night.

"I think it's been very, very good for us," she told the Herald before going on stage.

"It's definitely brought a huge light to our lives. We went from talking about bill changes and building codes to talking about, as silly as it may be, dresses.

"It sounds superficial talking about dresses all the time, but it's simple and silly things that help people through.

Chatting

"I do want to say that we are in a better place as a family, extended and immediate, after this festival," the physics student added.

"We've gotten more out of it than I'd ever have hoped with how close we've gotten and how much I've gotten to see my family."

Amanda was one of 18 Roses to take to the stage in the Rose of Tralee Festival Dome yesterday as part of the 58th running of the annual competition.

Speaking about Ashley and Olivia, she said: "They are 110pc looking over me. My sister and my cousin were my biggest fans, we supported each other.

"We were always together, always chatting on the phone, we were doing video conference. I have no doubt they will be here with me in The Dome."

Last week, Amanda spoke about how much of a pivotal role her sister played in her life when she appeared on the Ryan Tubridy Show on RTE Radio 1.

She told Tubridy her sister used to protect her from bullies.

"I was actually bullied fairly heavily, car keyed and the business," she said.

Since arriving in Kerry, she has received a letter from a mother whose daughter is being bullied, asking if she will mentor her through it.

"I was in my room and I had a solid cry when I got it," she said. "It's something I will definitely be following up on."

Amanda previously told the Herald how she first heard of the Rose of Tralee competition through her uncle, and revealed that it was also a dream of her late sister to take part.

Gratitude

"When I was younger and over visiting Ireland, he would always say to everyone that my sister and I were going to be Roses one day," said Amanda.

"Unfortunately, Ashley never got the opportunity to apply to be a Rose, but she would have been so happy for me as she was always my biggest supporter.

"I decided to enter the Rose of Tralee for a number of reasons.

"Firstly, I thought it would be a great way to become more involved with the Irish community in San Francisco. That it would give me the opportunity to not only meet a lot of amazing people but also to have a lot of fun," she said.

However, Amanda added that the most important reason was for her to say thank you.

"When I walked on to the stage the night of my selection, I wasn't concerned with winning [or] representing myself well, I was filled with gratitude and love for the Irish people," she said.

"Many people my family had never met had many sleepless nights to ensure that my family and I got the help and support that we needed from the Irish community. I knew that I would never have a better opportunity to thank them."

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