Hundreds of mourners gathered at the funerals of a Donegal mother and daughter who were killed in a car crash while driving home after a summer holiday.
The funerals of Margaret McGonagle (69) and her daughter Maireád Mundy (38) took place in their native Bruckless while the funeral of a third victim of the crash, Racheal Battles was taking place later on Monday.
The three women died in the crash near Ardee Co Louth car crash early on Friday. They were travelling home to Bruckless from Dublin airport following a holiday in Turkey. Gardaí are still investigating the cause of the crash which happened about 1am near Aclint in Co Louth. The crash victims had been to Turkey on a number of occasions on holidays and also to celebrate Maireád’s first wedding anniversary. She had taken her best friend Racheal, who is originally from Ardara, as well as her mother Margaret on the holiday.
Mourners heard stories of heroic counselling in other people’s traumas, champion Irish dancing, and the teenager who dashed home after three days away because she was homesick.
Caoimhin O’Neill (14), a witness to the tragedy that claimed the life of his mother and grandmother, helped push his mother’s coffin as it was taken towards the cemetery behind his grandmother’s remains. He was with his stepfather Padraic Mundy in another car when his mother and grandmother died in the crash in the early hours of Friday.
Parish priest Fr James Sweeney, an addiction counsellor, recalled that Margaret became an accredited counsellor and was “to the fore” in setting up the Donegal Rape Crisis organisation. The mother of three became a counsellor under his tutelage 25 years ago in the Abbey Hotel in Donegal town. She worked in different areas helping others with their trauma and difficulties.
He read a moving note from one of her clients: “Mags, I don’t know where to start how to express how grateful I am to you. I have battled with my mental health for many years and thought it was something I would just have to live with. That was until I met you. You have changed my life completely, saved me as a person. You are an incredible woman. Absolutely amazing at what you do. It’s a pleasure to have met you and I have enjoyed every second. You have inspired me so much and helped me to smile again. I will be forever grateful, you’ve been my butterfly! (I say a butterfly is an angel helping you find your way. Thank you so much for everything. I will never forget you. All my love forever.”
Mourners heard how Margaret’s daughter Maireád Mundy was such a home-lover that when she was sent to Glenties, 25 kilometres away, as a 16-year-old she returned after three days because she was homesick. The congregation heard how Maireád danced in All-Ireland and Ulster championships.
Fr Sweeney recalled that Maireád married Declan O’Neill in 2002 and they had Caoimhin. Declan died tragically in 2009. Some years later she met Padraic and he helped with their paper-work for their wedding a year ago in nearby Killybegs.
Fr Sweeney said: “She found a good fellow. He was a neighbour of my own from Mullinasole outside Donegal town. She came to a good place to find her husband.”
Maireád worked in Baskins Café in Dunkineely, three kilometres from her home. Her most famous customer would have been Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker and her family who have a holiday home in the vicinity.
Fr Sweeney observed he, also, was a customer. He told the congregation: “On a few occasions she served me lovely fish and chips in Baskins.”
Messages of condolence continued to appear on Facebook yesterday. Among them was one from Rachael’s younger sister Nicole O’Leary. It read: “My heart is absolutely broken. I don’t know how we’ll ever get over this. You were my role model, inspiration, second mammy.”
Nicole promised that she would care for Racheal’s four children, including six year-old daughter Danni who was hospitalised following the crash and was allowed home on Sunday night.
Guards of honour at the two morning funerals were provided by local GA Club Naomh Ultan’s, by a south Donegal soccer academy and by Bruckless Boat Club which was founded by Maireád’s father Bernard.