Northern Ireland news

North Belfast priest tells funeral of Deághlán Cole (22) of devastation caused by drugs

Deághlán Cole, who died on Sunday January 5

A priest has told young people who lose friends to drugs not to claim they are "partying with the angels", in a hard-hitting homily at the north Belfast funeral of a father-of-one.

Fr Gary Donegan told mourners at Requiem Mass for Deághlán Cole (22), who died on Sunday January 5, that he had come to Holy Cross as a Passionist priest "to lead and not to be popular".

"Deághlán made his choices in life. He saw his friend die last week. He cried bitter tears, but his way of dealing with the tragedy after a few days was to go out partying and using drugs again which despite rumour was the reason for him falling asleep and not waking up," he said.

The funeral heard that Mr Cole's former primary school, Holy Cross Boys, has now seen 20 former pupils die as a result of suicide or drugs.

"Contemplate that an area of one square mile, in one school, the magnitude of the loss of 20 young men. That is a fifth of the total number of victims lost due to the conflict in this parish," the priest said.

He told mourners that Mr Cole's decisions caused his parents "to reach deeper into that never-ending chasm of love".

He said he had "loved to be the centre of attention" through "his fashion, his permanent shades, his physical fitness, his gleaming smile, his dancing, his singing".

However, the priest warned against misrepresenting his death.

"To Deághlán's friends, the message is loud and clear from his family, myself and all who are concerned about you. Today is not a celebration. It's a commemoration.

"This is not about `forever young' and `partying with the angels'. Your friend Deághlán is gone - gone forever. You will never hear his voice again. You will never see his face again. This is a tragedy, pain at its peak, the worst level for family and friends.

"Deághlán was only 22 years old. He was a bundle of fun and joy. Everyone loved to see him coming, but that is no more."

Fr Donegan said Mr Cole had died "in denial" of his addiction.

"I say to you, his friends, you too are also unique and special. There is nobody else like you, so make your life count. Each one of you is a bright light and nobody wants to see the bright light that you are go out.

"... If you want to truly honour Decky, it’s not about tears or inappropriate parties. If you want to truly honour your friend Decky, make the choice to live your life to the fullest, and don’t bring this horror you see today home to your own family."

He went on to "call out the parasites who make their money destroying the beauty of you, our young people" and their "crocodile tears" at funerals.

"They are responsible for bringing the mayhem and horror to our homes and to our communities, profiting from the misery of the vulnerable."

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