Irish climber killed in avalanche 'wanted to make a difference'

A climber from the North who was killed in an avalanche in Scotland had a great zest for life and wanted to make a difference, her former schoolteacher said.

Una Finnegan, 25, from Coleraine in Co Derry, had been working in Edinburgh as a junior doctor.

She was part of a group swept 1,000ft to their deaths while descending from a mountain in Glencoe, in the Highlands, on Saturday afternoon.

Nicola Madden, vice-principal of Dalriada School in Ballymoney, said the precocious former pupil would be badly missed.

“She was bright, bubbly, talented, an amazing student, and academically she was brilliant, one of the top students,” she said.

Ms Finnegan, who secured nine A*s and one A in her GCSEs in 2004, was involved in the Duke of Edinburgh scheme (hillwalking for young people) at the school, along with her twin sister, and that led to a love of the mountains and outdoors, Ms Madden added.

She was inspired to become a doctor after attending a humanitarian mission to Moldova in eastern Europe and meeting medics there, the senior teacher said.

She also sat on the interview panel which appointed the North’s first Children’s Commissioner and displayed a taste for civic duty.

“She just had a great zest for life and did actually want to make a difference,” Ms Madden said.

Ms Finnegan’s father Dr Owen Finnegan was a well-respected heart and chest consultant at the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine. Following in her father’s footsteps she studied medicine at Newcastle University and took her masters in anthropology of health and illness in Edinburgh, where she continued to live.

Ms Finnegan won a shield for debating at school and was deeply interested in politics, with a Rotary Club award taking her to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Ms Madden added.

She also obtained an outdoor challenge scholarship to the Lake District in England, a big opportunity as she gained more experience in difficult terrain.

She had a twin sister, who also studied at the school, as well as other siblings.

She left in 2006 but maintained strong links with Dalriada, a mixed voluntary grammar school in Co Antrim founded in 1878 which draws its more than 800 pupils annually from a wide geographical area and a range of social, religious and cultural backgrounds.

Independent Stormont MLA for the Coleraine area David McClarty, who knows the victim’s father, said: “This is just such a tragedy to be visited upon this family.”

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