Emotional last lap as parents give thanks for 20 years

PAUL DOHERTY loved “doing the lap” — a local phrase for driving around town, showing off your wheels and having the craic, mourners at his funeral heard yesterday.

On what should have been his nephew’s 20th birthday celebrations, his uncle, Cecil Doherty, was instead paying tribute to the young lorry driver and mechanic at his requiem Mass.

“He was a hardworking young man and he was always pushing to get the job done so that he could ‘do the lap’,” said Mr Doherty.

“Those of you who know, will know what that is, and it was with the car of the moment, be it a Golf, a Sierra, a Passat and, not least, his recent and most favourite, Audi 4.”

Mr Doherty said one of Paul’s “great brags” was that he was a better welder than his dad.

“Just on Friday, he called his dad out to the shed and said ‘now that’s how I want you to do it from now on’,” Mr Doherty said, to the amusement of the congregation.

More than 600 people gathered at St Mary’s Church, Clonmany, for the first of yesterday’s four funerals for the victims of Sunday’s horrific crash at Glasmullen. The first three victims, Hughie Friel, Mark McLaughlin and PJ McLaughlin, were buried on Wednesday while the final victim, James McEleney, will be laid to rest today.

Chief mourners yesterday were Paul’s parents Felix and Sally, brothers Stephen, Mark and Gary and sister Caroline. They were joined by hundreds of young friends from the parish.

The coffin was carried in by his family, including his three younger brothers, after being brought from his home in nearby Ballyliffin.

Children from Carndonagh Community School formed a guard of honour as his remains were carried into the chapel at the edge of the village. Paul’s love of country music was much in evidence with renderings of several classics including Garth Brooks’ If Tomorrow Never Comes.

Paul was remembered as “full of energy and full of life” and someone who was possessed of a great “joie de vivre”.

Clonmany parish priest, Fr Fintan Diggin said: “He was a hard-working young man, a wage earner who was making his contribution to society.”

Among the items brought to the church by his family reflected his love of cars and lorries and his work in construction. The gifts included a copy of Auto Trader, a toy truck, an earth mover, boiler suit, a spanner. A photo of his local pub, The High Stool, also featured.

“These have been hard days in our parish, terrible days for Paul’s family,” said Fr Diggin. When all the media attention dissipated, the community would “still stick together”, he said. “We pray that on his birthday, Paul is being received into new life, into an eternal life in heaven.”

Cecil Doherty praised the emergency services including fire crews, gardaí, ambulance personnel and hospital staff who were at the coalface of the carnage on Sunday. He also paid tribute to the people of Inishowen.

“Truly we feel deeply, heartfelt... wonderment at your ability to share in this pain and it makes us proud to be part of this community.”

He said Paul’s parents wanted to pass on a message: “They would like to thank Paul for the last 20 years. He has entertained them profusely during that time with all his tricks.”

He offered the family’s support to the sole survivor of the crash, the driver of the black VW Passat, Seán Kelly, and his parents, Liam and Pauline Kelly. Paul and Seán were cousins by marriage.

“This is a very difficult time for Liam, Pauline and family and for Seán and we sincerely hope that his recovery will be full and swift and that we, as a community, will rally round and give him the support that he needs.”

Mr Doherty’s statement was greeted with applause from the large congregation. Borne by devastated family members, Paul was laid to rest in a grave at the far corner of the leafy adjoining graveyard. Next to his, was a second, freshly-dug grave that would be filled, not three hours later, by the remains of his childhood friend, Ciarán Sweeney. Two pals, side-by-side, under an old sycamore tree.


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