JUST a fortnight ago the beautiful Michaela Harte celebrated her marriage to John McAreavey.
It was a fairy tale wedding, the marriage of Ulster GAA royalty in a way. Michaela was Mickey Harte's daughter, and her husband a Down footballer.
In her poignant wedding pictures we see Michaela glowing, on the happiest day of her life, beside her proud dad.
Who could imagine that just 12 days later Michaela would be murdered on her honeymoon in the paradise island of Mauritius?
Her death has sent shockwaves across the country, devastating her beloved family and traumatising the GAA world, in particular in her native Tyrone.
Her body was discovered on the floor of her room and the full details of what happened will take some time to emerge.
In an initial interview the chief police investigator in Mauritius confirmed that Michaela had been strangled to death.
I was surprised to hear, during the same radio interview, the policeman declare that he would have the case wrapped up quickly. I hope so, but no stone should be left unturned.
The Indian Ocean island of Mauritius is a mecca for honeymooners, with golden beaches and endless blue skies.
But Michaela's murder has shown the dark side of this paradise, the violence and brutality that apparently lurks beneath the surface.
Her murder is also the latest instance of a malign curse that seems to hang over the Tyrone GAA community. When her father began coaching Tyrone's minors back in 1997, player Paul McGirr died tragically after an accidental collision on the pitch.
In 2004 Cormac McAnallan, just 24 and already a GAA great, died of cardiac arrest. And now tragedy has touched Tyrone's managerial great himself.
As a dad myself I can only begin to comprehend the grief, heartbreak and desolation that Michaela's parents are enduring.
And as a father of two beautiful daughters I especially feel for Mickey Harte. There is often a special bond between father and daughter, and Michaela was his only daughter.
Their partnership extended beyond daughter-daddy, to football, and Mickey regarded her as a confidante, friend and 'vibe doctor' to the team.
She played a key role in their success, along with her dad, there's no doubt about that.
She was the manager's 'little jewel' and inspiration, by his side at every Tyrone game since the age of seven.
She predicted success for her father and the Tyrone team with uncanny accuracy.
A note in her child's handwriting predicting this success was published in Mickey Harte's autobiography.
From an eager youngster she grew up to be a beauty queen, taking part in the Rose of Tralee and eventually enjoying her dream day as a bride.
And of course, we must not forget the awful agony for her widower John.
Less than a fortnight ago he set off on his honeymoon full of joy, with a bright future before him and his bride.
Now he faces the agony of accompanying the body of his beloved home.
Finding the killer -- as soon as possible -- will go some small way to easing her husband's and the Harte family's pain.
But it will never ease the huge weight of grief.
In Wordsworth's words, there are "thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears".
In these black days of despair and apparent hopelessness for the Harte and McAreavey families, I pray that they find the strength and faith to cope with their appalling loss.
THE latest poll on the race for the Aras threw up some interesting results -- and questions.
Quite incredibly, and despite fury over his impending retirement and fat pension cheque, Bertie Ahern drew the support of 12pc.
So more than one in 10 voters believe that Bertie -- a onetime Taoiseach recently seen flogging his soccer column from a cupboard -- would make a good President. God forbid.
I've no doubt Ahern, in the deluded way of career politicians, will no doubt see this as a lifeline. He might even opt at this late stage to throw his hat in the ring.
But surely even his most ardent supporters will try to convince him otherwise.
I was also surprised to see the strong performance of David Norris, who polled 27pc in this Red C survey. Articulate, intelligent and witty, Norris is a colourful character, and a brilliant debater, who could teach most Dail members a thing or two about political discourse.
If they ever showed up to debate, that is.
Of course he is an outspoken advocate of gay rights, and can occasionally be as camp as a row of tents in the Curragh.
His strong support is clearly a reaction against party politics. It is a violent kick-back by voters against the mainstream, and it mirrors the disenchantment, distrust and disregard the electorate now have for politicians of all hues.
The government-elect of Fine Gael and Labour would do well to take note.
Personally, I'd opt for Fergus Finlay. There is no whiff of scandal to this man, and he appears honest, with integrity.
But there's a bigger issue here than who gets the keys to the Aras. Now that all the political parties have decided, in effect, to abolish the Seanad, it is time to have a wider debate.
In ruinous times, when we are basically a vassal state of Europe, I would ask the question: is it time to abolish the office of President itself?
A FURIOUS battle is raging over the demolition of buildings at Moore Street, where the 1916 leaders made their last stand.
Campaigners have called for the entire terrace to be preserved. But the city council -- which knocked some structures in the area recently -- has said they are a danger to the public.
I'm as patriotic as most but I'm coming down on the side of the council on this one.
These buildings are rat-infested, derelict ruins; a decaying eyesore.
Frankly, the terrace appears in danger of falling on a passer-by and causing injury or worse.
There are other ways of commemorating the men of 1916.
We don't have to preserve everything in aspic -- Boland's Mills in Ringsend is another deserted building and I'm not hearing many calls to keep that.
It would be a more lasting tribute to the State's founding fathers to rejuvenate the area, and incorporate a small museum highlighting the history of Moore Street and its links to the Rebellion.