CREESLOUGH priest Fr John Joe Duffy has revealed he undertook trauma counselling following the tragic explosion which killed 10 of his parishioners.
Fr Duffy became the focus of national attention as he attended to victims’ families and the injured in the aftermath of the October 7 tragedy. He also presided over the funerals of the majority of the victims.
At Mass at St Michael’s church, he urged his parishioners to use professional counselling services which have been made available following the tragedy. He revealed later to the Donegal News that he himself attended a counselling session at the town’s medical centre this week. He said he has used professional counselling several times in the past.
Following the tragedy, Fr Duffy said his mind was in “overdrive”. However, exercises suggested by the professional counsellor helped him to deal with his feelings and to sleep better as he was physically exhausted.
In his homily earlier in the week, Fr Duffy said he used counselling to help him after his father died 21 years ago. He told parishioners he was 27 years old when his father drowned at the age of 51. He used his experiences and emotions from that time to comfort those bereaved by the Creeslough explosion, he said.
"I was very blessed to be going through Maynooth college at that time where we had to go for counselling twice a week and use counselling ourselves in order to help us in our own development. I was very lucky to have that service made available to me when I went back to college," he said.
Fr Duffy said one of the first things he told the counsellor following his father’s death was that he had been “very nasty” towards his mother, constantly arguing with her. He said he had been “hitting out” at the person who loved him most and who he loved most.
"That can be very true; it can happen to anyone of us in that we react in ways that we know not in a time of great grief, in a time of trauma, like what we are experiencing now as a family,” he said.
At the time, he did not believe he needed counselling but later realised that he did. He appealed to his parishioners to seek professional counselling to guide them through the aftermath of the Creeslough tragedy.
"Let us help one another but, in order to help one another, we may need and I do believe we do need to have those talks with family and friends but also to make use of those professional services,” Fr Duffy said.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Robin Swann has thanked emergency first responders from Northern Ireland who attended the Creeslough tragedy. Teams from the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service, Northern Ireland Ambulance Service and Air Ambulance assisted at the scene.
"I want to pay tribute to our emergency crews and thank them for their outstanding bravery, commitment and dedication. The conditions which they encountered in Creeslough were challenging on many levels and I am very grateful to each and every one of them for their courageous service," he said.
Support has been put in place by both NIFRS and NIAS for staff who responded to the incident.