'Life is precious and life is brittle': Donegal endures the bitterest wind to bury four young crash victims

'Life is precious and life is brittle': Donegal endures the bitterest wind to bury four young crash victims
The funeral of Mícheál Roarty. Pic: PA

The bitter winds which blew across West Donegal today only added to the coldness left in the hearts of those who said goodbye to the four young men killed in a horrific road crash last weekend.

For days family and friends have taken comfort in recalling the life and times of the friends who left so much goodness and so many achievements behind them in their short lives.

But for many the grief, loss and turmoil created by the sudden deaths of Mícheál Roarty (aged 24), John Harley (aged 24), Shaun Harkin (aged 22) and Daniel Scott (aged 23) was all too much to take on this last day of January.

Just days into a New Year with plans, resolutions and hopes still high, a huge hole has been left in so many neighbouring communities.

'Life is precious and life is brittle': Donegal endures the bitterest wind to bury four young crash victims

Not just one but several communities have been ripped apart in a split second.

The stillness and silence which swept through these communities as the four funerals took place today was palpable.

Shops and businesses closed their doors as a mark of respect to the four young men who had grown up amongst them.

Many travelled from different parts of the globe to say a final farewell to the pals killed instantly when their Toyota Corolla car left the road near Magheraroarty at 8.40pm last Sunday night.

Some had embraced the men and bid them farewell as they jetted off to different parts of the world as is so often a right of passage by many young people in this Gaeltacht area.

But little did anyone think that they would meet again so soon in such heartwrenching circumstances.

Hundreds of mourners crisscrossed the rugged landscape in a bid to attend as many of the funerals as possible throughout the day.

The funeral of Shaun Harkin. Pic: PA
The funeral of Shaun Harkin. Pic: PA

Shaun Harkin, age 22, late of Killult, Falcarragh was the first to be laid to rest as his funeral mass took place at Christ The King Church, Gortahork at 10am.

Guards of honour from Cloughaneely GAA Club, Glenea Utd as well as the local national and secondary schools lined the roadway as Shaun's remains were taken to the church.

Fr Sean O Gallchoir told hundreds of mourners that this as the start of a terrible, tragic traumatic and tear-filled Thursday.

"This is one of the darkest days in the history of the community in Donegal as we say a final farewell to many of our young men of 20, snatched from us in the prime and bloom of youth," he said.

Gifts including a photo of himself, an electrical instrument to symbolise his job as an apprentice electrician as well as his phone were brought to the altar.

Fr O Gallchoir also made reference to Shaun's friends, many of whom had travelled from Australia and the Middle East to be here for his funeral mass.

At 11.30am, the Funeral Mass of Mícheál Roarty, late of Dunlewey, took place in the Sacred Heart Church, Dunlewey.

Hundreds of mourners stood otuside as the freezing winds of the Poison Glen bit hard.

Tears flowed openly as members of Mícheál's beloved Gaoth Dobhair GAA team led his coffin into the church carrying three cups and his coffin draped in the Gaoth Dobhair flag.

Fr Brian O' Fearraigh said Mícheál was a rogue but a loveable rogue and that there was laughter wherever he went.

He told mourners: "He has finished the game the game of his life but to those he has left behind him must continue playing until the final whistle and sure Roycee will be sitting on the sidelines waiting for you," he said.

Those in the congregation included the 1992 All-Ireland winning captain Anthony Molloy and the chairman of the Donegal GAA County Board Michael McGrath.

Among the gifts brought to the altar were his Gaoth Dobhair GAA jersey and Dunlewey Celtic soccer jersey as well as some football boots and some aftershave.

Others to attend the funerals in the three parishes of Gaoth Dobhair, Gortahork and Falcarragh were Deputies Pat the Cope Gallagher, Pearse Doherty and Thomas Pringle.

The Bishop of Raphoe, Dr Alan McGuckian, attended three of the four funerals.

John Harley, of Carrowcannon, Falcarragh, was the third of the young men to be buried.

The funeral of John Harley. Pic: PA
The funeral of John Harley. Pic: PA

Hundreds also attended John's funeral mass at St Finian’s Church, Falcarragh at 1pm.

A captain of the local Cloughaneely GAA club, Fr James Gillespie said John was a leader on the field.

Although a talented footballer he didn't like to put in the hard work training and often said: "Training is for players who are trying to improve."

Fr Gillespie said he arrived at John's house at 11pm on the night of the horrific crash but there were no words.

“I arrived to a house of tears and shock, and disbelief, numb with what had just unfolded. Very little was said, and what could be said? No one had words," he said.

An apprentice electrician, Fr Gillespie also told how John worked in a local bar and look forward to Friday afternoons because it was "pension day" and some elderly customers would come in.

Many of his family did not know this but he went about this in a quiet, laid-back and modest way, like many things he did in his life.

The parish priest told how John loved nothing more than chatting with them and seeing if everything was okay with them.

The funeral of Daniel Scott. Pic: PA
The funeral of Daniel Scott. Pic: PA

The bells tolled again at Christ The King Church, Gortahork, at 2.30pm for the funeral mass of Daniel Scott, aged 23, late of Bedlem, Gortahork.

The mass was delayed as hundreds of mourners from the other three funerals made their way back to Gortahork for the final funeral.

Fr Sean O Gallchoir said Daniel was back in the same spot where he made his communion and then his confirmation.

He recalled how Daniel loved keeping up his appearance and described him as "dapper Daniel."

Gifts of hair gel, a pair of Daniel's blue suede shoes and a GAA jersey were brought to the altar.

He had worked in many places including Denmark and England but never liked working in the bog cutting turf, added Fr O Gallchoir.

As well as sympathising with his extended family, the parish priest reached out to Daniel's girlfriend Helen and said that he would probably have one day wanted to start a family.

He had a special word for the eight friends who had flown in from Australia to be with the families of Shaun, Micheal, Daniel and John.

But Fr Ó Gallchoir's final words were words of warning for those who get behind the wheel and take their life in their own hands around the roads of Ireland.

“Life is precious and life is brittle, life is very fragile, we saw that on Sunday night. Everybody hurts,” he said.

“Every time that I sit into a car, that you sit into your car there should be the deep decision and resolution to drive with care, to drive with attention, to drive safely so that no harm will fall on anybody.

“The car is a lethal weapon. We all know that life is busy, life is hectic, we’re all in a rush, we’re all in a hurry, we all have deadlines but deadlines can sometimes result in dead lives,” he said.

John loved the music of Christy Moore, and if it was up to him the country church in Gortahork would have rang to the sound of his lyrics.

Fr Sean O Gallchoir said: “Four young men, full of hope and dreams, full of plans and aspirations, full of ambitions, full of ideas, all now unfulfilled.”

His father Josie did a reading in Irish. His parents are separated but came together in church to mourn their son’s loss. He also leaves two brothers and two sisters.

Ahead of the burial ceremony, the priest told Mr Scott’s parents: “The sight that you will see in half an hour’s time is a sight that no parent should see.”

Mr Scott’s partner Helen sat at the front of the church as the clergyman listed the family branches.

The priest said: “He dreamed that one day there would be a fourth family.

“Daniel and Helen were a lovely couple, they were very, very good to each other. He was wonderfully good to Helen, he did everything for her, as she did for him.

“I suppose he had his dreams, all our hearts go out to Helen, we hope that her heart will heal as time goes by.

“Life is precious, life is brittle, life is fragile – everybody hurts.”

He did his degree then went to Scotland to pursue further studies.

The priest noted: “He found the mean streets of Glasgow difficult and opted out after a while and went into the world of work.”

He worked “hard and conscientiously” in nearby Dunfanaghy, the Shetland Islands in Scotland, Bristol and Brighton in England, and Denmark.

The electrician helped build an office for Facebook, fitting since he was hooked on social media, the priest observed.

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