Memories amid the mourning

TWO young girls taken way before their time, two funeral Masses, two slow processions to the graveyard, one community.

Deirdre Scanlon, a 17-year-old straight A Leaving Certificate student, and Sinead Ledwidge, aged 15, artistic, athletic, academic, were buried in Beauparc yesterday.

More than 1,000 people gathered for the morning Requiem Mass for Deirdre, joining her parents Rose and Pete, sister Catriona and grandmothers Detta and Catherine.

The Scanlon family returned in the afternoon, again along with more than 1,000 people gathered inside and outside the Church of the Assumption, to be with Geraldine and Leo Ledwidge, children Sonia, Thomas and Christopher, as they buried their daughter and sister.

Two processions from a church to the graveyard - Deirdre’s was to the sound of Sinead O’Connor, Sinead’s the theme to the Lion King - guarded with honour by children in their school uniforms or the yellow and blue football jerseys of the local team.

Some of the children were living reminders, if they were needed, of what happened just after four on Monday a few miles down the road. One girl was in a wheelchair, her faced scarred, another was in crutches, a boy had his arm in a sling.

Parish priest Fr Peter Farrelly gave homilies at both Masses. At both, he questioned what could possibly be salvaged from this tragedy.

He asked to forget at least for a time about the blame game and added: “It takes a village to raise a child... it takes a nation [to raise a child].

“If we question and re-evaluate the care for our children, for their safety, welfare, formation and values, then the deaths will have done something very valuable for us.”

But the families will be left with just memories. Fr Farrelly, who joined the parish just one month after Deirdre was born, remembered a few yesterday.

There was the little girl of three telling her ailing and now dead grandfather John that she would look after him as he struggled to catch his breath.

There was the time she proudly wore the Kerry jersey of her father’s native county in a roomful of people wearing Meath jerseys.

There were the songs and jokes she learned from both her grandfathers before growing up to join the choir, the local folk group, the football club and the parish quiz team.

Sinead was a champion shot putter and tremendously talented academically, said Fr Farrelly.

It was a day for hard questions, about faith, about the dreams of the young and futures cruelly taken away.

“What we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed,” was the theme of the homily for Sinead.

In a voice breaking with emotion, her friend Sharon Brady read out a poem Sinead wrote. It ended: “Now I must leave this fair setting, I will realise my dreams in time.”

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