Pope Francis has spoken of his “deep sadness” at the deaths of 10 people in a blaze in Dublin, as the first five of the victims were laid to rest.
In a message from the Vatican read at the funerals, the pontiff described the fire at Carrickmines, south Dublin, as a terrible tragedy.
Hundreds of mourners packed into the Church of the Holy Redeemer in Bray, Co Wicklow, to pay their respects to the devastated Lynch and Gilbert families.
Many more gathered outside the church and alongside shops on the town’s main street which had pulled their shutters down as a mark of respect.
Willie Lynch, 25, his pregnant partner Tara Gilbert, 27, and their daughters Jodie, nine, and Kelsey, four, and Willie’s brother Jimmy, 39, were visiting family at a halting site on Glenamuck Rd when they were overcome by the fire on October 10.
Willie’s sister Sylvia Connors, 27, her husband Thomas Connors, 27, and their children Jim, five, Christy, two, and Mary, five months, also died.
In a heartbreaking reflection, Tara’s cousin Stuart Gilbert recalled enjoying “literally every moment” with her and her family.
“Although they were only with us for a short time, they left an impression most wouldn’t leave in a 100 years,” he said.
“Jodie was smart, willing, and determined. She never missed a day at school, stopping by our house every morning for a hello. She walked with confidence and never dropped her chin.
“Kelsey was coming into her own, beginning to find her stride and form her own character, helped along by all those close to her.”
Fr Derek Farrell, parish priest for the Traveller community, told the congregation he thought it was a “bad dream” when he awoke to the news more than a week ago.
“Saturday, 10th October 2015 will forever be remembered as a horrific and tragic day in the history of our country,” he said.
“The three families, Lynch, Gilbert, and Connors, the entire Traveller community and Ireland as a nation suffered a loss which is beyond words.” Fr Farrell described Tara and Willie as a loving and close couple.
“John, Willie’s brother, put it so simply and beautifully when he said: ‘God made them, God matched them.’ They stuck like glue to one another, and bonded very well. They managed everything so well, the house, the family — they were a really happy, loving family.
Willie cherished his “three girls”, Fr Farrell told mourners.
“Kelsey stuck like a magnet to Willie, always wanted to be close to her Daddy,” he said. “Jodie meant the world to Willie as well.”
Tara was remembered as someone “beautiful inside and out, always smiling, easy-going, never grumpy, a fantastic mum, her children always came first”.
Jimmy had a “heart of gold”, loved Elvis, fixing things for other people and was very good to his late mother Mary, for whom “he was her pride and joy”.
Fr Farrell also noted a widespread instinctive outpouring of support for the families across Ireland.
“And all of this has been in a context of often new close relationship and interactions between settled and Traveller, united in various forms of solidarity and prayer over the past week,” he said.
“A unity perhaps no more poignantly and particularly embodied than in the loving relationship of Tara, as a young settled woman, and Willie, as a young Traveller man, and the family they together established so beautifully.”
Willie and Jimmy’s brother John thanked “the whole community and whole country” for their support.
Dublin’s auxiliary Bishop Eamonn Walsh read a statement from Pope Francis.
“Pope Francis, having learned of the horrific fire in Carrickmines, expresses his deep sadness over this terrible tragedy,” he said.
“The Holy Father prays especially for those who have died, and he wishes to assure all their family members, their friends, and the whole Traveller community, of his spiritual closeness and sympathy at this very difficult time.”
The five were buried afterwards in Springfield cemetery.
The funeral of the Connors family take place in Balally, south Dublin, tomorrow, before proceeding to Wexford.
Survivors of the blaze are still awaiting temporary accommodation after residents at a nearby publicly-owned field objected to their being allowed onto the site.ends
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