Hundreds of people have turned out in Co Tyrone for the funerals of three teenagers killed in a tragic crush outside the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown on St Patrick’s Day.
On a solemn day for the county, family and friends gathered to remember Morgan Barnard and Lauren Bullock, both aged 17, and 16-year-old Connor Currie.
Guards of honour were formed by the teenagers’ school friends or sport teams.
Speaking first at the funeral of Morgan Barnard, at St Patrick’s Church in Dungannon, the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland said: “Words fail us at times like this.”
Archbishop Eamon Martin added: “All that really matters, and makes a difference, is love and friendship and compassion.
“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.”
Archbishop Martin added: “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.
“In the days ahead, we will cherish the memories of these precious and gifted young people whose lives have been so suddenly wrenched from among us.
“We will continue to hold their families, and each other, close in love and faith.”
Morgan’s family, who said the teenager brightened lives with his humour, had encouraged those attending his funeral to wear Hawaiian shirts or sports tops to the service.
He was remembered in Father Aidan McCann’s homily as “a vivacious, charismatic and energetic young man who nobody had a bad word to say about”.
While reading a Prayer for the Faithful during the service, one of Morgan’s friends paid an emotional tribute.
“Morgan was my best friend and no matter where he is he will always be my best friend,” he said.
“And I am going to love him forever.”
Meanwhile, at St Patrick’s Church in Donaghmore, Lauren Bullock’s pink and white floral coffin was borne through the churchyard followed by an enormous but silent crowd of mourners.
A guard of honour was formed by members of her cheerleading group.
Father David Moore said the three lives had been “needlessly” lost.
He told those gathered that Lauren 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”.
At St Malachy’s Church in Edendork, Connor Currie’s GAA teammates wore their club jerseys as they formed a circle around his coffin.
The 16-year-old’s parents said he was a “gem” and friends recalled his infectious smile and how he lit up a room as he entered it.
Father Kevin Donaghy told mourners the young man had been a winner.
“A winner indeed he was,” he added.
“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 - and a winner, above all, of a place among the ranks of God’s children.”
The tragic loss of three young lives has touched the hearts of many across Northern Ireland and beyond, with books of condolence opened and messages of support sent to the families.
Police are still investigating the circumstances surrounding the untimely deaths of Morgan, Lauren and Connor.