The ten names of those who perished in the Creeslough tragedy were read out in the Dail yesterday as politicians paid tribute to those who perished in the disaster a month on.
Those who spoke also paid tribute to the strength and courage of the local community in their quest to continue with everyday life in the village.
Tributes were also paid to the ongoing work of the local clergy and those on the day who used their bare hands as well as machinery as they searched for survivors into the night.
A number of those who spoke listed the names of Robert Garwe and his five-year-old daughter Shauna Flanagan-Garwe, fashion student Jessica Gallagher, Celtic fan Martin McGill, Sydney native James O’Flaherty, Catherine O’Donnell and her 13-year-old son James Monaghan, shop worker Martina Martin, 14-year-old Leona Harper, and carpenter Hugh Kelly.
Many also emphasised the continuing need for counselling supports, particularly ahead of the Christmas period, as the pain and grief was still “very raw”.
Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said that the moment at 3.18pm on October 7 would be “etched into the souls of the people of Donegal for generations”.
He said: “Each of our emergency services working with local people were heroic in their efforts. They risked their own lives to save those in Creeslough.”
He also paid tribute to the cross-community response, as well as the digger driver who worked late into the night without taking a break to help with the recovery efforts.
He added: “When the Taoiseach Micheal Martin visited the site the day after the explosion, he was very much moved by how volunteers were so giving of their time as part of the search efforts as well as ensuring everyone at the site was looked after.”
He mentioned the Coffee Pod cafe that looked after people, as well as Father John Joe Duffy, who Mr McConalogue called “a tower of strength”.
He added: “Our thoughts at all times have never left those who have lost their loved ones and whose lives are irreparably changed and altered forever.”
He said that the Taoiseach wanted to praise the work of those at the coffee shop Coffee Pod in particular.
The road that the service station is located on remains closed, but Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan told the Dáil that they would do everything “to help restore that connectivity”.
Mr Ryan said also that he had attended mass at St Michael’s Church in Creeslough two weeks ago, when Father Duffy was absent due to contracting Covid-19.
Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty said that a focus needed to be put on what the community in Creeslough needed.
He said: “The grief felt by their families in the community of Creeslough is the grief of this nation, and indeed, beyond its waves. Their loss is the loss for the nation.
“We also need to recognise that the physical hub of the community is destroyed, it lies in rubble.”
Former Gaeltacht minister and Fine Gael TD for Donegal Joe McHugh also paid a touching tribute.
He said: “It’s very very raw for the people who are still grieving. We’re in the middle of the month’s minds and I’m conscious this evening… that there are people who are in tremendous pain and are hurting for the loss of their loved ones, their neighbours, their relatives, their friends.”
Donegal TD Padraig Mac Lochlainn said that they had just reasons to criticise the actions of the Church in Ireland before, but that the way in which priests supported the locals in Creeslough was admirable.
Independent TD Thomas Pringle said that he was disappointed that drop-in counselling services were scaled back at Creeslough, and that the weeks ahead will be difficult for those dealing with the “unspeakable” tragedy.
He said that some members of the community were struggling with sleeping in particular.
Mr Pringle also criticised junior minister Josepha Madigan for a tweet she sent soon after news of the tragedy emerged, which he said was “in such bad taste that it’s hard to understand”.
He and members of the chamber then stood for a minute’s silence to remember “the victims and the heroes” of Creeslough, but also the victims of the 2015 Carrickmines fire, the 1981 Stardust nightclub fire, and the teenage girls killed in a Navan road crash in 2005, who were all mentioned during the tributes.