THE line of mourners stretched for around a mile as one of Ireland’s road victims was brought home.
Dozens of cars and more people on foot made their way to the whitewashed Donegal house where James McEleney, 23, lived, yards from the crash site.
Relatives and friends dabbed at their tears as his remains arrived from Letterkenny hospital. One of them, Pádraig Doherty, said: “It is just such a tragedy.”
Mr McEleney’s home village of Clonmany came to a standstill and businesses near his home closed. Many houses were deserted as mourners accompanied the coffin from Letterkenny.
The victim had three brothers — Shane, 30, Robert, 26, and Philip, 22 — as well as 29-year-old sister Kathleen.
His mother Philomena, 50, has said James had a “heart of gold”.
A member of staff at the Centra shop in Clonmany said she would remember him for his generosity.
“He was in on Thursday. He was lovely and generous and he would always tell you to keep the change,” she said.
The gutterer had been out of work for some time, but played the Lotto in the hope of fulfilling his dreams.
The shop worker added: “I used to say to him, ‘You are still trying to win the jackpot’.”
Close by the shop a grave was being dug in the churchyard at St Mary’s, which will be busy for the rest of this week with funerals, including Mr McEleney’s on Friday.
Pensioner Hugh Friel — who was returning from bingo in Buncrana when his car hit the car in which Mr McEleney and six others died — was another victim from the area, and many of the others were well-known.
Mr Friel’s brother John grimaced as he refused interviews and the local national school principal clutched a cup of tea and held back the tears as she declined to speak about the young people.
It was the worst road tragedy to hit the rural community, although there have been other fatalities in the greater Inishowen area.
Kathleen Coady, centre manager at Clonamany Youth and Community Centre, said there is a difficult job ahead to support all the youths in the area.
“They will come in and talk to us and we will just be here to provide a warm place for them to get together,” she added.
She paid tribute to those killed: “They were really nice young people and their friends and family are heartbroken.
“They had a great zest for life. The whole area is shocked and stunned. Inishowen is such a small place that everybody is on nodding terms.”
That solidarity meant a fresh outpouring of grief yesterday and for many days to come.
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