Northern Ireland news

'Phenomenal' £185k raised after death of Co Tyrone man Tiarnan Rafferty (22) to be handed over to Kevin Bell Repatriatrion Trust

Tiarnan Rafferty (22) who died following a motorcycle accident in Australia
By Mairead Holland

A "phenomenal" £185,000 raised in memory of a young Co Tyrone man who died in Australia is being handed over to the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust.

Tiarnan Rafferty, from Galbally, was 22 when he was killed in a motorcycle crash in February this year.

At Galbally Community Centre tonight, representatives from several groups will present a cheque to Colin Bell and his wife Eithne.

The Newry couple set up the charity after their 26-year-old son Kevin was killed in a suspected hit-and-run in New York in 2013.

It helps relatives bring home the remains of Irish people killed abroad and each year provides assistance to dozens of devastated families.

Mr Bell has described the amount raised in less than a year in memory of Mr Rafferty as "phenomenal".

He recalled just one other similar donation, made three years ago when €207,000 was handed over in memory of Martin Cadden (22) from Co Cavan who was killed in a road crash in New Zealand in January 2015.

"The money raised will go to help families in the future who will receive the same news as Tiernan's parents and Martin's parents and so many other parents," he said.

The £185,000 was the result of a mammoth effort by Tiarnan's family and friends in his home community and in New York and Australia, who organised fundraising events and donated money.

Events in Galbally included a tractor run, 10km walk and run and raffle while friends in New York held a skydive and others in Australia ran a raffle and function.

One of the organisers of the Galbally events said the generosity from the community had been "unbelievable".

"I was surprised by the amount we raised, but old people, young people, everybody got involved. People were ringing us to give us money."

To date the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust has helped bring home the bodies of around 500 people.

In August, Mr Bell received a Points of Light award from Prime Minister Theresa May in recognition of the charity's work.

It recognises the achievements of volunteers "making a change in their community and inspiring others".

In a personal letter to Mr Bell, Mrs May said: "By establishing The Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust you have turned a personal tragedy into a force for good, assisting hundreds of families going through the traumatic experience of bringing the body of a loved one home.

"You should feel incredibly proud of the work you are doing in Kevin's memory to support grieving families across Northern Ireland and Ireland."

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