26 May 2005


United in grief at first heartbreaking removal

26 May 2005
By Caroline O’Doherty

THE tiny two-centuries-old church where the coffin of Claire McCluskey was brought last night could hold barely a quarter of the mourners who gathered to pay their respects.
Some 300 others stood outside, laying wreaths at the old iron gates where a bell ringer tolled sorrowful notes from a small bell.

A marquee was erected to provide some shelter for the crowds in the chill evening as a light spattering of showers became a heavy downpour and the service was relayed outside on a public address system.

In the same way that the crowd overflowed into the little churchyard and the narrow country lane beyond, the grief and shock at the loss of Claire was spilling out far beyond her immediate family.

Parish priest Fr John Brogan said everyone was shattered by the tragedy and was struggling to cope. He told Claire’s family their deep pain was shared by an entire community.

That community gathered in force to support the McCluskeys last night as Claire’s parents, Marie and Christy, and her two sisters, Maria and Anita, made the sad journey from their home in Beauparc, Navan, to the Church of the Nativity in Rosnaree on the road to Newgrange.

Classmates from the Loreto secondary school where Claire was a student formed a guard of honour in their uniforms, along with representatives of the Navan branch of the Irish Red Cross, of which Claire had been a member for the past three years.

Inside the church, several photographs of Claire with her friends were displayed and arrangements of simple white flowers were placed at the altar.

Five of her schoolmates lit five candles to represent their five missing friends, of whom Claire was only the first to be brought to the church. Two of her close friends, Claudia Hegarty and Dean Ladrigan, sang a song that has become a teenage anthem, a track by Green Day with the refrain I Hope You Had The Time Of Your Life.
The opening bars were enough to turn the brave young faces to inconsolable tears and many of the girls clung to each other as they watched Claire’s coffin being carried past them.

The pall bearers passed by a student with her arm in a cast and another leaning on crutches, living reminders of the horror that was Monday’s accident.

Bishop of Meath, Dr Michael Smith, joined the priests of the parish to receive Claire’s remains.

“I do not know if there are words to take away that kind of pain,” he sighed as he prepared to go inside.

Thousands have been sending words of comfort, however. The mourners were told last night that some 4,000 messages of sympathy had been received on the diocese email from all over Ireland and as far as Japan, Nigeria and the US.

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