President prays for Creeslough families in Christmas message
PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins has prayed that the families of all those who perished in the Creeslough tragedy can find "space for healing" in the year ahead.
Ten people, including two teenagers and a five-year-old girl, died when a suspected gas explosion collapsed an Applegreen shopping and apartment complex in the small Donegal village in October. A team, led by the gardaí, is still investigating the causes and circumstances of the explosion on October 7.
In his Christmas message delivered yesterday, President Higgins spoke of a wide range of issues which have impacted on Irish people at home and abroad. The president addressed war and refugees as well as homelessness, climate change and the cost of living crisis among other issues. However, he singled out the Creeslough tragedy. President Higgins said he wanted, in particular, to highlight what the people of Creeslough have come through.
“May I in a special way extend my sympathies this Christmas to the people of Creeslough and all who were bereaved by the terrible tragedy visited on that close knit community which I had the privilege of visiting at a time of tragedy and grief.
“I hope this coming year will bring you some space for healing and that, along with your profound sadness, your loved ones can be remembered with appreciation by you for all that was shared with them, your lives together."
He again paid tribute to Irish soldier Private Seán Rooney who was buried with full military honours in Co Donegal on Wednesday. Private Rooney was shot dead while returning to his base from Lebanon airport last week. The president also hoped that Trooper Shane Kearney, from Cork, who was injured in the same incident, made a full recovery.
He said: “We are all thinking this week of the grief being experienced by the family of Seán Rooney, by the families of those injured in Lebanon and in particular the family of Shane Kearney.”
In Creeslough itself, many of the traditional Christmas and St Stephen's Day events have been dedicated to the victims of the tragedy and to raising funds for the victims’ families. On St Stephen's Day, the local St Michael’s GAA senior team will take on a select from the club’s 2003 Intermediate Championship winning team. Following the game, a raffle will be held at Rose’s Bar with all money raised going to the Creeslough community fund.
The traditional New Year’s Day swim at Marble Hill has been dedicated to the tragedy, Organised by Doe Amateur swimming club, all money will also go to the Creeslough fund.
The 10 people who died in the Creeslough tragedy were: Catherine O’Donnell (39) and her son, James Monaghan (13), Martin McGill (49), Jessica Gallagher (24), James O’Flaherty (48), Martina Martin (49), Hugh Kelly (59), Robert Garwe (50) and his daughter, Shauna Flanagan Garwe (5) and teenager, Leona Harper (14). In tribute to the victims, 10 candles were placed on the Creeslough village crib when the village’s Christmas decorations were lit earlier this month.