By Ray O’Hanlon
With funerals taking place in Ireland this week for four of the six Berkeley balcony collapse victims, a service of remembrance for the dead will be held this Thursday, June 25, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan.
The service will start at 6.30 p.m.
Over the past few days, books of condolence have been opened at the Aisling Irish Center in Yonkers, the Emerald Isle Immigration Center offices in the Bronx and in Woodside, and in the New York Irish Center in Long Island City.
The condolence books and service are but a part of the wider mourning for the loss of the six students in the balcony collapse which occurred early Tuesday morning, June 16.
The funeral of the Irish American victim, Ashley Donohoe, was held on Saturday in conjunction with a funeral for her cousin, Olivia Burke, who was then flown back to Ireland for burial.
The coffins carrying the remains of Niccolai Schuster, Lorcán Miller, Eoghan Culligan and Eimear Walsh arrived in Ireland on Sunday on an Aer Lingus flight from San Francisco.
While there has been an enormous outpouring of public grief Irish Foreign Affairs Minister, Charlie Flanagan, has asked that the privacy of the families of the victims be respected.
"It is essential that the families of the victims of the Berkeley tragedy be given the space they need to grieve. I appeal for their privacy to be fully respected,” Flanagan said.
And a statement was issued by the Irish Consulate San Francisco on behalf of the families of Eoghan Culligan, Lorcán Miller, Niccolai Schuster and Eimear Walsh.
It read in part: “As we leave Berkeley and return home to Ireland with our beloved sons and daughters, Eimear, Eoghan, Lorcan and Niccolai, we would like to thank everyone in America and Ireland for their sympathy and support, which has been a tremendous comfort to us at this tragic time.
“Particularly we thank the local authorities, emergency services, medical staff, parishes and communities of Berkeley. In addition we are forever grateful to the Irish Consul, Philip Grant, and his local team, and also the amazing service and support received from Aer Lingus, the Department of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Anne Anderson, and a special appreciation to Minister Deenihan.
“We cannot thank enough the students that were in the apartment and apartment complex that night. The manner and speed at which they reached out to our families, to our Consul, and to each other was faultless. Our children were extraordinarily blessed in their friends and we are enormously proud of them.
“The sympathy and responses of friends of our sons and daughters, the wider group of students on J1 visas and the program's sponsoring Agencies (USIT, SAYIT, CIEE and InterExchange) is a testament to their popularity, and to the closeness of these groups from school and university.
“The Irish communities of the Bay Area - coordinated by Fr. Brendan McBride, Fr Aidan McAleenan, Celine Kennelly and their colleagues at the Irish Immigration and Pastoral Center - have been a constant source of support and comfort.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Donohue family and Ashley, who was laid to rest today in Sonoma, the Burke family and Olivia, and with Aoife, Clodagh, Connor, Hannah, Jack, Sean and Niall who remain in hospital and with their families, we wish them a speedy recovery.
“We very much appreciate the support and sympathy that has been expressed, but now we ask for privacy so that we can mourn the sudden and tragic passing of our beloved sons and daughters, with the dignity that they deserve.”
Diaspora Jimmy Deenihan had flown to San Francisco last week to represent the Irish government. He said the six who had died had “become the children of Ireland.”
Meanwhile, condolences have continued to flow from organizations and individuals.
The US-Ireland Alliance, which runs the Mitchell Scholarship program that annually sends U.S. students to Ireland, said in a statement: “Everyone associated with the Mitchell Scholarship program is saddened by the deaths of six Irish students in Berkeley.
“Educational exchanges and summer work programs allow to come to know each other as individuals and strengthen the ties between our countries. We send our condolences and our thoughts and prayers are with the injured.”
The Irish Cultural Center and McClelland Library in Phoenix, Arizona also expressed shock and sadness
“As members of the extended Irish family within the United States, the Irish Cultural Center and McClelland Library cannot fully express in words the extent of the sorrow we feel for the students and families who lost their loved ones or were injured in Tuesday morning’s balcony collapse.”
Adams extends condolences on deaths in Berkeley
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams extended his condolences to the family and friends of those killed and injured.
He has also commended the efforts of Irish America in its support for the victims and their families.
Speaking in the Dáil Adams said: On behalf of Sinn Féin I want to extend my deepest condolences to the families of the six students who were killed and the seven others who were injured when a balcony collapsed in Berkeley.
“The suddenness of the accident and the extent of the tragedy has shocked the people of Ireland and people in the USA.
I welcome and commend the efforts and support of Minister Flanagan and the Department of the Foreign Affairs. I want to commend also the work of our Consul General in San Francisco, Philip Grant, who with his staff are providing support for the injured and the bereaved families.
I also commend the support and assistance of the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, Kevin O Malley, and I welcome the Taoiseach’s initiative in asking the Minister of the Diaspora to represent us all.
I want to acknowledge the work of the Irish community and our diaspora in the Bay Area for their support for our young people and their families.”