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'Valley of tears' as funerals of St Patrick’s Day party crush victims held

The funeral cortege makes its way to St Patrick's Church, Donaghmore for the funeral of of Lauren Bullock. Credit: Liam McBurney/PA

The deaths of three teenagers outside a St Patrick's Day disco have created a "valley of tears", the head of the Catholic church in Ireland has said.

Morgan Barnard, 17, Lauren Bullock, 17, and Connor Currie, 16, died in the tragedy outside a hotel disco in nearby Cookstown, Co Tyrone on Sunday.

Schoolchildren formed tearful guards of honour during back-to-back funerals attended by thousands of friends and relatives on Friday.

Morgan’s family, who said the teenager brightened people’s lives with his humour, had encouraged friends and family to wear Hawaiian shirts or sports tops to the service.

A large crowd followed the hearse carrying Morgan's coffin. Credit: Brian Lawless/PA

Pupils from schools in Dungannon and Cookstown took part in the guard of honour for Morgan at St Patrick’s Church in Dungannon.

The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, addressed mourners as Morgan’s requiem mass began.

Lauren Bullock, Morgan Barnard and Connor Currie perished in the crush. Credit: PA/Family photos

He said: “Words fail us at times like this. All that really matters, and makes a difference, is love and friendship and compassion.

"The shocking events of Sunday last have reminded us that life is very fragile; we need to cherish every moment and always look out for each other, and keep each other safe.

"And only faith can dare to speak into the darkness of these days to offer a glimmer of light and hope in this valley of tears."

Morgan Barnard, 17, was one of three teenagers to die in the disco crush. Credit: St. Patrick’s Academy Dungannon/PA

In his homily, Father Aidan McCann said it was an understatement to say Morgan was well-liked.

"He was a vivacious, charismatic and energetic young man who nobody had a bad word to say about," he said.

"Morgan was a person of character who had a great sense of humour with an abundance of wit - always a smile on his face."

Lauren's coffin was pink and decorated with flowers. She was borne through the churchyard in Donaghmore followed by an enormous but silent crowd who had accompanied her on her final journey.

Schoolchildren lined the street while the bell at St Patrick's Church tolled.

The coffin of Lauren Bullock arriving for funeral at St Patrick's Church, Donaghmore. Credit: Liam McBurney/PA

Chief celebrant at Lauren's service Father David Moore said the three victims had lost their lives "needlessly".

He said: "Aged only 17, Lauren was well in the process of making her mark on her home, her school, this community, her circle of friends. She was 'living the dream', energetic and full of life, doing and enjoying all the things that made her happy.

"She was a girl who was happiest when she was doing things to help others and gave of herself and her time to do a good deed whenever and wherever she could."

A mass booklet from a memorial service in memory of Lauren Bullock Credit: Liam McBurney/PA

Fr Moore said St Patrick's Day 2019 would never be remembered as a celebration of Ireland's patron saint.

"Instead, for many decades to come, Saint Patrick's Day 2019 will be called to mind as the awful day when three beautiful young people, all in the prime of their lives, were overpowered, literally in the mad rush of our modern world, and needlessly lost their lives," he said.

The third funeral, of Connor Currie, 16, was held at Saint Malachy's Church, Edendork, Co Tyrone.

Classmates formed a guard of honour and members from Edendork Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) club wore their jerseys as they stood in line and formed a circle around the coffin.

Members of Connor Currie's GAA club Edendork form a huddle around his coffin. Credit: Brian Lawless/PA

Fr Kevin Donaghy, conducting the funeral Mass, said Connor was a conscientious student who had his sights set on doing accountancy.

Friends recalled how he lit up a room as he entered it and his infectious smile warmed everyone's hearts, the funeral heard.

Connor was a keen GAA fan. Fr Donaghy added: "And a winner indeed he was: a winner of a loving family; a winner of many loyal friends and team-mates; a winner in school life and on the sports field."

His mother Ciara and father Eamon described him as a "gem".

Hundreds gathered for the funeral of Connor Currie, 16. Credit: Brian Lawless/PA

Michael McElhatton, 52, who owns the Greenvale Hotel where the deaths occurred, was arrested earlier in the week on suspicion of manslaughter.

He was subsequently bailed to return for further questioning in future.

A 40-year-old man also being questioned on suspicion of manslaughter remained in police custody for questioning on Friday morning.