Hundreds have turned out to pay their respects after a pregnant mum and three children were devastatingly killed in a house fire.
The victims of the tragedy in Ireland were described as “five angels in heaven” during an emotional eulogy at their funeral Mass this morning.
Seven-months-pregnant Annemarie O’Brien, 27, her daughter Paris, two, and the little girl’s cousins Jordan, four, and three-year-old Holly died after a blaze swept through a women’s refuge at Kilcronan estate, Clondalkin.
Floral tributes, balloons, photos and teddies adorned the church as the coffins sat below the altar, Dublin Live reports.
Jordan and Holly’s mother Biddy O’Brien, 31, is critically ill in hospital and unaware that her two children perished in the fire.
During the funeral mass at St Anne’s Church in Shankill, Fr John O’Connor described how Biddy’s husband Jamie is “suffering” very badly but it is a comfort to him that his kids are “together”.
He said: “Poor Biddy is gravely ill in hospital and she is in our thoughts and prayers today but she is here in spirit.”
Meanwhile, grief-stricken dad Jamie wiped away tears as he first carried their son Jordan’s coffin to the top of the church and then walked back with a heavy heart to carry their daughter Holly’s coffin.
Spider-Man and Peppa Pig balloons filled one corner of the church, while teddy bears were carried on top of the coffins of the three children.
Annemarie’s partner Sean Patel carried her coffin, while his brothers carried the remains of Paris and Annemarie’s unborn baby, who she had already decided to name AJ.
Fr O’Connor referred to the Carrickmines tragedy and the bereavement the family have suffered in recent years – including the death of Annemarie’s brother Andrew who also perished in a blaze.
He said: “God knows what these times are about, we don’t. That’s why we can sometimes feel confused, sadness and hurt.
“The time of Annemarie, Paris, A.J, Jordan and Holly has ended. Their pilgrim journey is now over and we know that they are happy in God and at peace with him in their heavenly home.”
He added: “As travellers you are also part of a very strong and noble tradition and your culture will stand by you and give you strength and courage in these difficult times.”
Fr O’Connor spoke about how the tragedy has devastated Jamie.
“He told me how much Jordan and Holly loved their mammy and how much she loved them,” he said.
“Jamie is obviously deeply upset by the death of his beautiful children but he is happy that they are together with God, that they are not alone. That’s very important to him.
“He wants his children to know that he will look after their mammy.”
Fr O’Connor described their mother Biddy as a strong and intelligent woman.
“She now needs the love and support of us as never before and I know that you won’t let her down,” he said.
Fr O’Driscoll read a letter at the end of the mass, which said:
“Dear Annmarie, Hannah Paris, AJ. Dear Jordan, Holly.
“When you joined our family our hearts were so full of happiness that there was no room in us for words.
“As you were growing our hearts were so full of care for you that we spoke soothingly, sometimes sharply, fearful for your safety, but always in the deepest places of our hearts we spoke lovingly.”
It continued: “We marvelled at all you did and became.
“There’s a place within us that’s yours and yours always.
“For the light you brought to us, for the special gift you will ever be, thank you.”
An aunt of tragic Ann Marie O’Brien and her cousin Biddy O’Brien, who is on life support, previously described how both women are and were great mothers. She also said their children worshipped them.
Bridget Moorehouse, 62, who lived at the Shankill halting site for many years before the family relocated to Dun Laoghaire after a family bereavement, said: “You wouldn’t see Ann Marie or Biddy without the kids and the children loved them dearly.
“They were lovely children. Ann Marie loved her daughter Paris and she was a great mother who’d do anything for her. It’s an awful tragedy we’re all suffering. Biddy is badly burnt and on life support. She’s the best mother in the world.”
Biddy’s mother Bridget raised Ann Marie and they grew up together. They were cousins but they were more like sisters. In recent years Ann Marie did her very best to get a home for her kids.
Clutching a photo of her own daughter Mary, 32, who died tragically two months ago, Bridget added: “We’ve suffered lots of tragedy.
“Ann Marie’s brother Andrew died in a fire in 2011. He’s buried beside my son Jimmy who died the same year. Carrickmines was my husband Felix’s family.”
The horror blaze broke out at around 2.30 am early on Wednesday morning. It was believed to have been started by an electrical fault in a sitting room and not malicious.
The Mirror learned that Biddy and her two kids were in the apartment for a sleepover to visit Ann-Marie and Paris.
Ann Marie and Paris originally came from Shankhill, Co Dublin while Biddy’s family hail for Dun Laoghaire.
The tragic fire broke at a Sonas Domestic Violence Charity apartment in Cluainin Cronan, Kilcronan Avenue.
One family friend said: “I am so sad for the family. Please oh God in heaven keep this family in your prayers. Never heard anything like it. Can’t imagine how they feel.”
Another added: “Never heard worse. Everyone pray for their families at this very sad time.”
Sonas CEO Fiona Ryan expressed the charity’s devastation at the loss after the tragedy.
A statement from Sonas said: “Our sympathies and condolences are with the relatives and friends of the deceased and all those implicated by this awful tragedy.
“We are devastated by the tragic loss of life which occurred as a result of fire in an apartment in our supported housing complex in Clondalkin.
“Sonas is working with the relevant authorities on their inquiries. We are awaiting further details from An Garda Siochana.
“We are currently supporting other families in the apartment complex including those unable to return to their homes because of fire damage for whom we are sourcing alternative accommodation.
“We would ask that the privacy of all families residing in this complex be respected at this time of loss.”
Speaking at Áras an Uachtaráin at a reception for International Women’s Day, President Higgins said: “I want to express my sympathy to all of those affected by the tragedy in Clondalkin.”
A spokesman for Dublin Fire Brigade said a number of emergency calls were made about the blaze last Wednesday, with the first alert coming in at 2.33am. It is understood the first crews were on the scene within five minutes.
“We got numerous calls in about it which would indicate that the fire was noticeable. The fire alarm in the apartment had also gone off,” a spokesman said.
Gardaí are appealing to witnesses to contact them at Clondalkin Garda Station on (01)666 7600, the Garda Confidential Line 1800 666 111 or any garda station.