Call for forgiveness at crash victim's funeral

Forgiveness should be shown after a pensioner died in a road accident on his way home from bingo, his funeral heard today.

Hugh Friel, 66, was a good neighbour who would do anything for his friends, Co Donegal parish priest Fr Fintan Diggin said.

The farmer's car and another vehicle packed with eight youths were in collision near Clonmany on Sunday night.

The driver is seriously ill in hospital and his seven friends are dead.

"I know that Hughie would not have wanted the circumstances surrounding his death to heap any more pain or suffering or grief on anybody," Fr Diggin said.

He said if he were alive he would have hoped everybody could forgive and understand.

"I am sure he would have used the phrase that has been used so much these days 'there but for the grace of God go I'.

"The family have in their own heartbreak and suffering been looking out for the other families affected.

"Members of Hughie's family found it in their hearts to go to the families to sympathise with them, to offer the hand of friendship and to pray for them."

As the coffin was buried in the churchyard overlooking rugged Leenan Head, family and friends of Mark McLaughlin made their way slowly to St Mary's Church in Fahan, about 12 miles away.

At the same church later today the local community will endure their second funeral of the day with a service for Patrick "PJ" McLaughlin, 21, from Tooban, Burnfoot.

Families last night attended a private ceremony and laid flowers with messages at the crash scene near where the young men had been socialising and watching the World Cup final on Sunday night.

A smashed telegraph pole and damage to shrubs were the only remaining signs of the horror accident - the worst on record in Ireland.

Funerals for the other five men will take place across Inishowen tomorrow and Friday.

The priest at St Michael's Church in Urris, Clonmany, said Mr Friel's life revolved around working the land at his home nearby and helping his friends and neighbours.

His only distraction was bingo and he had won €65 in Buncrana on the night of his death.

His black woollen hat, which he wore while farming, and bingo cards and pen were laid at the entrance to the church.

The priest added: "This is an area of traditional good neighbourliness and people spontaneously helping each other, coming to someone's assistance... always being there for one another."

He continued: "That is the personality and character and nature of the man.

"Hughie Friel was a lovely, quiet, pleasant gentleman, a great neighbour who will be sorely missed by this community."

Low-maintenance, easily pleased, working on his land gave him immense satisfaction, he said.

Fr Diggin said most of the memorials at homes on the dramatic Inishowen peninsula were to those killed at sea.

"The focus seems to have changed from losses at sea to loss of life on land, on wheels," he added.

There have been several serious accidents in the area in recent years.

He asked mourners to pray for the driver of the youths' car, Sean Kelly, also from Urris, who was fighting for his life in Letterkenny Hospital.

A letter was read out from Bishop Seamus Hegarty.

"These past days have been difficult, not only for the families but for the entire Inishowen area.

"I was impressed by their deep dignity in the face of such tragedy," he said.

The small country church was packed with mourners from across the area.

Outside, at the burial in the churchyard, prayers were said and red roses dropped on to the coffin.

The sound of muted crying could be heard, and a little boy tearfully rested his head against his mother's cheek.

One family member helped his distressed wife out of the church by the arm as it emptied of people.

One mourner said: "It is a sad day for the parish."

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