Funeral hears 'devoted' parents were 'a match made in heaven'

The remains of the victims are taken from the church
The remains of the victims are taken from the church

A tribute was paid to the courage of a young Traveller man who risked his own life in an attempt to save his loved ones, at the funeral of the Connors family

The funeral of Thomas Connors (27) and his wife Sylvia (25) and three of their children, Jim (5), Christy (2) and five month old baby Mary, took place at the Church of the Ascension of the Lord in Balally, co Dublin.

They will be buried together in Wexford tomorrow.

The couple's two surviving children Michael (6) and four year old son, Tom have been left orphaned by the tragedy.

Mourners who attended the funeral included Thomas' parents, Jim and Jojo, his brothers Jim, Dan and John and sisters Kathleen and Maggie.

Sylvia's brothers John and Ben were also present, together with her sisters Tina, Annamarie, Josie, Bridget, Teresa and Caroline.

The President Michael D Higgins was represented by his aide de camp, Cmt Kieran Carey and the Taoiseach by his aide de camp, David Foley. Gerry Adams, senator Shane Ross and Richard Barrett TD were amongst those present.

Thomas and Sylvia Connors were 'a match made in heaven' and they never left each other's side, mourners heard. They never seemed to fall out or have any serious arguments.

Chief Celebrant, Fr Derek Farrell, Parish Priest of the parish of the Travelling People, also paid an emotional tribute to their children, recalling Jim as a "lovely boy, a very happy boy."

Christy was "full of life" though quiet at times and up until baby Mary's arrival had been "the little babbie."

Jim and Christy were very close brothers, clever for their age and had both been waiting on their birth of their baby sister.

Little Mary was just five months old and when she arrived, was "much treasured by the whole family," said Fr Farrell.

He also spoke of the couple's two surviving children. Michael and Tom, along with little Jim had just started in the local Gaelscoil in Ballyogan last month.

"As a family, the parents of Thomas put it very simply: "they were a lovely family, lovely children. We loved them."

Fr Farrell said the outpouring of sympathy for the devastated Traveller community has been against a context of new close relationships and interactions between settled and Traveller, United in various forms of solidarity and prayer.

"We need to build on this," he said, describing it as a watershed moment which demanded a new departure.

"We need together to make the deaths and the loss involved in this tragedy matter, not just to this family, but to all in our society, Traveller and settled."

"As a lasting meaningful tribute to those devastated in this tragedy we must build on the immediate features of generosity and sympathy," said Fr Farrell.

"There are important lessons to be learned."

Nicola Anderson