Northern Ireland news

Bessbrook schoolboy John Paul Smyth 'truly loved life' mourners told at funeral

John Paul Smyth with St Paul's High School principal Jarlath Burns
Brendan Hughes

A SCHOOLBOY found dead after a five-day search was fondly remembered at his funeral yesterday as a "sensitive, caring young boy who truly loved life".

John Paul Smyth (15) went missing on New Year's Eve and his body was recovered on Saturday night from the water near Warrenpoint Pier in Co Down.

A huge search operation aided by volunteers was launched after the pupil at St Paul's High School, Bessbrook, was reported missing.

Crowds of mourners gathered yesterday morning at St Patrick's Church in Keady for his funeral Mass, with burial afterwards in the adjoining cemetery.

John Paul, also known as JP, lived in Newry but was formerly from Keady. He was the son of Gerard and Adele and a brother to six siblings.

Fr Seamus White, chaplain at St Paul's High School, told mourners that JP's death was a "tragic accident" and "in a sense we are glad that he did not suffer".

He described the schoolboy as the "gentlest soul" who was "always smiling".

"JP died at a time when he was in a good place in life and happy in life. He was making plans for his future," he said.

"JP had great potential. He was on the threshold of life. He had so much to live for.

"He could have done great things with his life, and that is what makes his death hard to bear."

Fr White said JP divided his time with two days a week at St Paul's and two at Southern Regional College.

He also did one day a week work experience in The Shelbourne restaurant in Newry where he was "highly regarded by staff and customers alike".

Fr White said JP loved nature, had a great interest in planes and cars, and was keen on music.

He was also a "great cook" with an interest in fashion and had "tried his hand at hairdressing".

"So between hairdressing and cooking he seemed to have an artistic flair about him," he added.

Fr White said JP's friends fondly remembered the teenager as someone who "always put people first before himself".

He added: "In fact if any of his friends were down, his favourite quote was, 'Live for today. Tomorrow's never promised.'

"And that's exactly what he did. He lived in the present moment.

"He was a sensitive, caring young boy who truly loved life."

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