Northern Ireland news

More than £10,000 raised to help pay for Belfast model Mairead Leigha O'Neill's funeral following sudden death

Requiem Mass for Mairead Leigha O'Neill will take place tomorrow in Belfast. Picture by Alan Lewis- PhotopressBelfast
Marie Louise McConville

The sister of a young Belfast model who died suddenly this week has paid tribute to her sibling, describing her as her "beautiful best friend".

Posting on Facebook, Bronagh McIlvenny yesterday spoke of her love for her 21-year-old sister Mairead Leigha O'Neill, who died on Monday.

Police say they are not treating the death of the well-known model, who was from the Markets area, as suspicious.

According to a family friend, Mairead, who lost her mother, Karen Pelan to cancer 10 months ago, "just could not get over living without her mother".

The young woman, who had just recently graduated from university, had worked at Belfast Fashion Week and last month's Carl Frampton fight in Belfast.

Yesterday, her sister, Bronagh posted on Facebook about her "stunning baby sister".

"My beautiful best friend you're really gone.

"I'm not gonna lie and say I can't believe it because I knew it was coming for the longest time. I tried so hard to keep you safe but not hard enough.

"I tried so hard to be like mum but I know I could never be the mum she was to you. She was one of a kind and that's why you needed to be with her and back in her arms. Let her hold you tight and never let go. I know she won't because you were her baby girl, her life and now she has you back. I love you so much bows and please help me be strong....Love you now and forever..."

Meanwhile, a fundraising campaign last night surpassed £10,000.

An initial target of £4,000 was reached within just two hours of the page being opened with a later total of £6,000 also surpassed.

The page was set up by a family friend to help the young model's surviving brother and sister pay for her funeral.

Donations can be made at

Requiem Mass for Mairead will take place tomorrow (FRI) at 1pm at St Malachy’s Church followed by a service at Roselawn Crematorium at 3pm.

Anyone in need can contact the Samaritans on 116 113 or Lifeline on 0808 808 8000

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