Northern Ireland

Tributes to classroom assistant who had 'profound impact' on school community

Gemma McKenna, who worked at Gaelscoil Ghleann Darach  in Crumlin, died on Saturday. Picture: Gaelscoil Ghleann Darach
Gemma McKenna, who worked at Gaelscoil Ghleann Darach in Crumlin, died on Saturday. Picture: Gaelscoil Ghleann Darach Gemma McKenna, who worked at Gaelscoil Ghleann Darach in Crumlin, died on Saturday. Picture: Gaelscoil Ghleann Darach

AN Irish language primary school in Co Antrim has paid tribute to a classroom assistant described as a "beautiful soul" following her death.

Gemma McKenna, who was in her 20s and worked in Gaelscoil Ghleann Darach in Crumlin, died suddenly on Saturday.

A former pupil of St Dominic's Grammar School in west Belfast, Ms McKenna, who was from the Crumlin area, was remembered fondly by parents of Gaelscoil Ghleann Darach after the school posted news of her death on social media on Sunday.

In a statement, a school spokesperson said staff at the gaelscoil, which opened in 2016, were "devastated" at the loss of the popular classroom assistant.

"Gemma embodied everything that was wonderful about our school: her love for the children, her positive attitude and her capacity for helping those around her," the spokesperson said.

"She was always supportive, caring, thoughtful and a well-needed breath of fresh air. She had a delightful sense of humour and a beautiful laugh which will echo around the corridors of the school for years to come.

"She was a beautiful soul who left a profound impact on all who had the pleasure to be in her company. We extend our sympathy to Gemma’s mum Donna, her Dad Noel, her sister Aoife and brother Cillian and her extended family."

The statement added the school community "will cherish her memory in our hearts".

Among parents to pay tribute was Vicky Anderson, who said: "Gemma was a wonderful person and loved by my children. I will miss seeing her beautiful smile every morning on the walk home from school."

Sairead de Brun wrote: "Gemma was such a gentle soul, always smiling and had so much time for all the children in the school."

A death notice described Ms McKenna as the "beloved daughter of Noel and Donna and much loved sister of Aoife and Cillian."