Northern Ireland news

Belfast priest describes Nóra Quoirin as 'a child of our faith community'

Nora Quoirin's body was found yesterday in Malaysia 10 days after she disappeared from the Dusun Eco Resort
Marie Louise McConville

JUST hours before the body of Nóra Quoirin was found in Malaysia yesterday, prayers for her safe return had been offered up in Belfast.

Parishioners had gathered at St Brigid's Church on Derryvolgie Avenue in the south of the city for a `Mass for Nóra', as searches for the teenager entered the tenth day.

Despite the family living in London for the past 20 years, the teenager had strong links to Belfast where her mother, Meabh was from.

Many members of the schoolgirl's family still live in the city and her grandparents are believed to be parishioners at St Brigid's Church.

Mrs Quoirin, a former pupil of Rathmore Grammar School, met her French husband Sebastien while studying International Business Communication at the Ulster University's Magee campus in Derry where he was a French teaching assistant.

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They went on to get married and had three children, two girls and a boy, of which Nóra was the oldest.

St Brigid's parish priest Fr Edward O'Donnell, who had baptised Nóra at the church on August 1, 2004, yesterday led those who had gathered to pray for the 15-year-old.

Fr O'Donnell described Nóra as "a child of our faith community".

"This morning, as we have done for several days now, we hold Nóra and her family in our prayer," he said.

"What can I say to you this morning, what can anyone say? It would, I think, be a mistake to use soft soothing words just to get us through this Mass, and beyond this tragedy.

"Such words, I fear, would be far removed from reality. Hearts are filled with pain, but we realise that the sum total of all our pain does not even begin to approximate the pain of Nóra's Mum and Dad, Meabh and Sebastien, and that of her grandparents, and those of the immediate family circle."

A message from Bishop of Down and Connor Noel Treanor was also read at the Mass to pray for the safety and recovery of Nóra.

"While I am unable to join you, Nóra and her family have very much been in my thoughts and prayers since her disappearance on 4th August from the Dusan resort," he said.

Bishop Treanor said words failed to "capture the immense suffering and distress" of Nóra's family, adding that he commended "their courage, faith, hope and resolve".

"I am also mindful of the goodwill and commitment of the authorities and local community in Malaysia who offered Friday Prayer at a Mosque near the search site...," he said

Meanwhile, a former Northern Ireland police detective, who was among those advising Nóra’s family, last night said now was not the time to "speculate."

"I think the powerful engagement that members of the public had right across Ireland, the UK and France has meant we have all lived in hope with them the last 10 days," said Jim Gamble.

"The cruel reality of hope is gone. I think what's really important now is to continue to support the family by recognising the need to give them time and space and dignity to deal with their grief in private.

"There are a number of procedures now that will kick in to do with forensics and the coroner. We need to give them time and if that happens over the next week, we will potentially learn more about Nóra's final journey and until we have the evidence that really is made available to us, I think it is really unhelpful to speculate."

Mr Gamble, a former chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, a police unit affiliated to the Serious Organised Crime Agency, who was contacted by the Quoirin family at the start of the search for advice, also appealed to anyone who sees cruel posts about Nóra and her family online to report it "because the more people who report the individuals, who have nothing better to do than poke a stick at people who are suffering, they deserve nothing but our contempt."

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