At the requiem Mass of 43-year-old John Butler at St Colman’s Cathedral in his native Cobh, Co Cork, on Saturday chief celebrant, Fr John McCarthy, said many “unanswered” and “unanswerable questions” surrounded the deaths of Mr Butler and his daughters Ella, 6, and two-year-old Zoe.
“It is a time for remembering the good times. John, the committed family man. His love for Una and his doting on his beautiful girls Ella and Zoe, his playing with them and reading stories to them. We recall John’s hard work, strength and energy, his talents and successes, including hurling, football and bowls.
“We remember his love for his nieces, nephews and godchildren – for whom he would buy lavishly and spoil with the biggest toys – his was the present, at birthdays and Christmas, that everyone would look forward to. We recall family Sundays at Belvelly (in Cobh) and his errands for Granny Meaney. This is the John the Butler family will remember.”
Mr Butler’s sister, Katherine Norton, thanked her late brother’s in-laws, the O’Riordan family, for their support, particularly over the last week. She also expressed her gratitude to the HSE, clergy and Cobh GAA for providing a guard of honour and to the hundreds who have offered their condolences to the family since the passing of John, Zoe and Ella.
She also expressed her appreciation for the gardaí, who she said went beyond the call of duty to ease their pain over the last few days.
Katherine Norton received a round of applause from the hundreds who attended the Mass when she ended her short speech with a heartfelt expression of love for her brother and his children.
“We love you John and you and your angels will forever be in our hearts.”
Chief mourners at the 10am Mass included Mr Butler’s widow, Una, his mother Kitty, his “Granny Meaney” and his siblings Chris, Paul, Marie, Katherine, Pat and Brid. Una Butler’s family were also in attendance and participated in the readings.
Fr McCarthy, who celebrated the Mass with, amongst others, Fr Michael Leamy, representing Archbishop Dermot Clifford, and Fr Aidan Crowley, curate of Ballycotton, said it was difficult to absorb the “enormity of what took place”.
He told the bereaved that they were in the thoughts not only of the people of Cobh and Ballycotton but that the “prayers of the whole country” were with them in the dark days ahead.
“The tragedy of the past week has reverberated around the country and countless people are with us here in spirit offering their prayers of support and comfort. We pray heartfelt prayers for all his family and friends gathered here today. So many of us here are lost for words. We know that there are no words that can describe your unimaginable sorrow and pain.”
The offertory gifts included family photographs, a hurley and a sliothar and a picture of a young John Butler receiving a medal from the late Cork hurler Christy Ring. An accomplished Gaelic footballer with both Cobh and Imokilly, Mr Butler had worked in Irish Steel for a number of years but in more recent times had worked in construction. He was laid off a year ago. It is understood Mr Butler became depressed at losing his job.
Following the requiem Mass on Saturday the coffin bearing John Butler’s body covered with a Cobh GAA flag was taken from the Cathedral for cremation.
The bodies of Zoe and Ella were found at the family home at Ballybraher just outside Ballycotton, Co Cork, last Tuesday morning by relatives when they called to check on the girls following a car crash in which Mr Butler died.
Postmortem exams confirmed the two girls had died from asphyxia. Mr Butler was killed after dousing his car in petrol and driving it at high speed into a ditch. Gardaí are not looking for anyone else in connection with the deaths.
Zoe and Ella were laid to rest in Ballycotton on Friday afternoon. Pupils of Scoil Réalt na Mara formed a guard of honour as the hearse left the church, before the girls were buried side by side in Cloyne cemetery. Counselling services have been offered to all those impacted by the tragedy.