Communities across north inner city Dublin were left devastated today following the killing of retired teacher Maire Buckley who died saving her daughter from the path of a stolen bus in the west of the city.
The 61-year-old, who gave years of her life to help the poor and youngsters with special needs in disadvantaged areas of the capital, shoved her daughter out of the way of the runaway coach as it hurtled towards them near Bluebell.
Frantic motorists looked on in horror as Ms Buckley, trapped in her car, was brutally mown down.
In heartfelt tributes, family, friends and colleagues told how her last act symbolised her selfless nature.
Finian McGrath, Independent TD for Dublin north central, worked with Ms Buckley for years.
“Maire was a very, very dedicated teacher,” he said. “As well as being a fantastic professional teacher Maire also had an interest in children at risk and children with disabilities and children with special needs.
“So the whole of the north inner city parents, teachers, all professional care staff, are absolutely distraught by the death of this beautiful, kind and caring woman.”
The TD, who spent 20 years teaching in the inner city, said he was absolutely devastated by her death.
“Even when I left teaching and got elected to the Dáil, Maire was always on my case in relation to funding to assist the poor sections of society and not to forget my previous day job working with disadvantaged children,” he told RTE Radio.
“Maire was that kind of person, she was good, kind, caring and she spent her life working in the interests of people and then to see her tragically cut down like this it is an absolute nightmare for her family and particularly her daughter.”
Ms Buckley was mown down in the Bluebell area as gardaí tried in vain to stop the bus. Stinger devices proved useless in slowing it and at one point officers opened fire in a bid to burst the coach’s tyres.
A 36-year-old man, from Jobstown, Tallaght, has been charged over the incident. Peter Clarke was remanded in custody charged with causing death by dangerous driving.
Eyewitnesses described the chaos and trail of destruction across the west of the city as the bus broke red lights and smashed road blocks. Mangled cars were strewn along the Naas Road, 14 people were injured including three gardaí.
Arresting officer Detective Sergeant Sean Hogan, who addressed the court today, had cuts and bruises across his hands from where he had tried to restrain Mr Clarke as the bus was eventually halted.
Michael McDowell, Justice Minister, said the thoughts of everybody were with the family and how tragic and cruel a death Ms Buckley met.
He also paid tribute to gardaí who confronted a difficult situation and he wished a speedy recovery to those traumatised or injured by the incident.
“They displayed immense courage,” he said. “They underwent what for most of us would be horrific experiences in trying to deal with the situation. I want to compliment all of them on what they did.”
Tempering his comments in the light of today’s court proceedings, he added: “By any standards, most people would think that this was an appalling event that almost defies explanation.”
Ms Buckley was one of a family of seven originally from Newcastle West, Co Limerick. After qualifying as a primary school teacher in Mary Immaculate College, she taught for several years before moving to Dublin to spend most of her teaching life working with students in inner city schools of Rutland Street and Marlborough Street.
After years teaching, Ms Buckley took on the role of home-school liaison teacher for a cluster of inner city schools before retiring in September last year. In retirement she became chairperson of the board of management of Marlborough Street School.
Mr McGrath said caring for youngsters came naturally to her.
“She was an absolutely fantastic woman. She had the love and respect of all the parents in the north inner city, as well as the respect from her fellow teachers,” he said.
“The whole community, teachers, parents, the education sector right across north of Dublin are absolutely devastated by her death.”
In a statement her family said: “She is a highly regarded and popular figure in the whole area of special education and is close to the hearts of many people in inner city areas.
“Maire was a fun-loving and vibrant person who loved life, and she will be deeply missed by all who knew her.”
Labour Party councillor and teacher in Sheriff Street Aodhan O’Riordain: “Everyone who met her was inspired by her. She was a decent and wonderful woman. May she rest in peace.”