herald

Sunday 23 September 2018

Devastated teen pays tribute to mum and gran killed in crash

Mairead Mundy and Margaret McGonagle
Mairead Mundy and Margaret McGonagle

Thousands will mourn as the funerals take place today for the three victims of the road tragedy at Ardee, Co Louth, on Friday.

Services for Margaret McGonagle (69) and her daughter Mairead Mundy (37) will be held at 11am in the Church of Saint Joseph and Saint Conal, Bruckless, Co Donegal.

Then, at 2.30pm, the funeral Mass will start in the same church for the third victim, mother-of-four Racheal Battles (39). All will be buried in the adjoining cemetery.

The church is so small that the grounds and the car park are expected to be thronged with mourners unable to join the congregation inside.

Losses

So much sorrow poured over Donegal that traffic had to be steered away from neighbouring homes in a five-house estate when the wakes started.

A shuttle bus service operated from the local national school to the two wake houses, after the bodies were transferred from a funeral home in Ardara.

Mourners included Racheal's four children and Mairead's only child, Caoimhin O'Neill (13), whose dad also died tragically eight years ago.

Close family friends are helping Caoimhin deal with three heart-breaking losses - first his father, architect Declan O'Neill, in 2009, and last Friday his mother and grandmother.

The 13-year-old, who only just made his Confirmation, took to Facebook to say a final farewell to his loving mum.

"R.I.P Mammy Nanny and Racheal fly high God bless GBNF [gone but never forgotten]," he wrote.

Racheal Battles
Racheal Battles

Parish priest Fr James Sweeney will officiate at the funerals, after what he has described as one of the worst tragedies he has dealt with in his 32 years as a priest.

"The whole community is still stunned," Fr Sweeney said.

"There is still disbelief and shock. Personally, I am coming to terms with having to officiate at three funerals in two services as best as I can.

"These things are never easy, but you face up to it as best as you can."

Barry Gallagher, who runs the post office in Bruckless, received a call at 4.30am last Friday about the tragedy and he and his partner rushed to Racheal Battles' home to be with her 20-year-old and 14-year-old sons.

"I was stunned initially when I heard the news. I thought the best thing to do was to visit the house," Mr Gallagher said.

"My partner was godmother to one of the two boys and we went to the home to see they were OK. There has been a strong connection between Racheal and my partner for quite a number of years."

Racheal, a native of Ardara, cared for her grandmother Ellen Cassidy, who was in short-term respite. She was looking forward to returning to the house on Racheal's return.

Mr Gallagher had also known Margaret McGonagle and Mairead Mundy for most of his life.

He recalled that Mairead worked in Baskins Cafe in nearby Dunkineely.

The most famous customer Mairead would have served in Baskins is Sarah Jessica Parker, of Sex and the City, who has a holiday home in the area.

Sympathies

Baskins sympathised with the grieving families in a Facebook message: "We are deeply saddened on the loss of our work colleague and friend, Mairead, along with her mum Margaret and friend Racheal.

"We extend our sympathies to all the families involved in this terrible tragedy.

"Mairead you will be sorely missed here, by all at Baskins Cafe. May they rest in peace."

Margaret McGonagle lived most of her adult life in the Bruckless area but she was a native of Sligo town, from the well-known McKenna family in St Brigid's Place.

Her father, Anthony 'Gully' McKenna, was on the Sligo Rovers team that won the Junior Cup in 1929.

The women died in a collision on a road described locally as "a death trap" when returning home from Dublin Airport after a dream holiday in Turkey.

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