Northern Ireland news

GAA club 'devastated' by death of life-long member Seán Byrne in Mournes fall

Seán Byrne and Robbie Robinson died in separate falls in the Mourne Mountains

A GAA club has been left "devastated" after one of its members died in a fall in the Mourne Mountains.

Seán Byrne died in an accident shortly before lunchtime on Sunday. A second man, former senior RUC and PSNI officer Robbie Robertson, died in a separate fall in the Mournes just an hour later.

Both men, who were married with children, were in their sixties and were experienced walkers.

Mr Robinson, from Banbridge, Co Down, was a former police chief superintendent and is believed to have fallen on Slieve Commedagh shortly before 1pm.

It is understood another walker went to rescue him but got stuck and had to be helped to safety by the Mourne Mountain Rescue Team.

Read More: Tributes paid to hikers killed in Mournes

Mr Byrne, from Camlough, Co Armagh, is thought to have died on Wee Binnian shortly before midday.

His sister Mairead Robb told Q Radio that "to his 93-year-old father and 87-year-old mother he was a son next door that they could call at any time, day or night".

"To us his six sisters and two brothers, he was a best friend to every one of us."

Mr Byrne was a trustee and former treasurer of Craobh Rua Camlocha hurling club, which paid warm tribute to him.

"He had a great love for our club and he showed this over the years by the giving freely of his time and experience to help us develop and become rooted within our community," it said in a statement.

"He possessed great gifts of commitment, integrity, calmness and care. He loved his family, his community, Gaelic sport and culture.

"No words we can say will lessen the shock and pain of his family as they struggle to come to terms with this news. However we will be there for them just as Seán had been here for us over the past 30 years.

"We convey our deepest sympathies to the families of both those killed whilst climbing yesterday in the Mourne Mountains."

The club cancelled all activities yesterday as a mark of respect.

Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy said Mr Byrne was "popular and highly respected".

"Seán was rest assured to be seen at any fund raising quiz or event that took place here in the village," he said.

Mr Murphy added that Mr Byrne was a keen photographer and his family were well-known in south Armagh.

He is survived by his wife Bernadette, sons Padraig and Shane and daughter Blinne.

A spokesman for the Police Federation, meanwhile, extended its sympathies to Mr Robinson's family.

"Chief Supt Robinson was a very professional RUC/PSNI officer," he said.

"His loss will be keenly felt not only by his loved ones but also by those who served with him throughout his distinguished career."

Mr Robinson's son Neil said the tragedy was a "freak accident" which was not wind-related and he paid tribute to mountain rescue and police officers.

"I can't stress enough the thanks that the family is giving them. They are legends, every single one of them," he told Q Radio.

Mr Robinson's funeral will be held at Holy Trinity Parish Church in Banbridge at 1.30pm tomorrow followed by interment in Banbridge New Cemetery.

He is survived by his wife Barbara, children Neill and Laura, grandchildren and wider family circle.

Mourne Mountain Rescue Team said 21 of its volunteers responded to several falls on Sunday.

A spokesman said the team was responding to the death on Wee Binnian when it received reports of a second serious fall.

An Irish coast guard rescue helicopter flew to the scene but could not help because of the weather conditions.

A man also suffered a broken ankle after he fell from the Saddle, which runs between Slieve Donard and Commedagh, at around 2.30pm.

The rescue team said its volunteers worked until 9.15pm on Sunday.

"To have two fatal incidents in the course of a day is an anomalous situation and our thoughts and sympathies are with the families of the deceased," a spokesman said.

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