Mother prepares to bury her ‘right-hand man’

THE brave mother of one of the young men who died in the Inishowen car crash has opened her heart saying: “I blame no one” for the tragedy.

Philomena McEleney, 50, from Clonmany, Inishowen, will be forced to say her final goodbye to her “right-hand man” today when her beloved son, James, 23, is laid to rest.

But the devoted mother of six holds no blame or anger for the driver of the car — the VW Passat, in which her son and six of his young friends lost their lives.

Seán Kelly, 22, was last night still desperately ill in intensive care at Letterkenny General Hospital after the horrific crash on Sunday.

But for Ms McEleney and the rest of the families, all they are praying for is that he recovers and is not blamed for the tragedy.

Philomena said: “There is no one to blame. James was in the car, I don’t blame anyone for that.”

In an amazing turn of acceptance at her son’s terrible death, Philomena said: “It was fate.

“I guess when your number’s up, your number’s up.

“No one wants to bury their child but you can’t predict when death comes.”

The loving mum will lay her boy with a “heart of gold” in a grave beside his older brother, Daniel, 28, who died in tragic circumstances in 2004.

“He was very close to his brother,” Philomena said.

The devastated mum also told how she had to wait around three hours in her home before she found out for sure if her boy was dead.

James’ cold body lay only yards from her home on the treacherous Buncrana to Clonmany road while rumours circulated about who was dead, while the family were stuck in a painful limbo.

“I was here in the house for a few hours. The guards, ambulance and fire brigade, were up there [at the crash scene],” she said.

“I heard all these rumours, people trying to work out who was hurt.

“People were saying only one was dead but no one thought it was James.

“I thought he might’ve had injuries but maybe that he’d come out alright.”

But the mother, who worked hard all her life to bring six children up, endured the hardest wait of her life, from midnight until 3.30am.

And in her time of desperation, Philomena had already guessed the worst was indeed yet to come.

“Part of me felt he was dead, but as a mother you still hope,” she said.

“You don’t want news your child is dead, you think you’ll go before your children.”

Now, all the families and mum Philomena are left with is heartfelt memories of their loved ones to clutch to in the black days ahead.

One of James’ last happiest moments was just over two weeks ago, when he attended a wedding with the girlfriend he adored, Lisa, 19.

And only days before his death he showed his mum how much he cared by painting the stone cottage they lived in together, with a fresh coat of white.

“James would say to me: ‘Mum, as long as you’re happy, I’m happy’,” Philomena said.

“I did my best for James, for all of my children and they knew that. He knew how much I loved him.”

But heart-breakingly now, every time the mum hears the Mike Denver song, Seven Spanish Angels, it will only remind her of the gaping hole in her life.

“That was his favourite song, he knew every word,” Philomena said.

James will be buried today at 11am in St Mary’s Church, in Clonmany, Inishowen.


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