‘Devastation’ as Royal Irish soldier Andy McFarland is buried

Army colleagues carry Andy McFarland's coffin at his funeral
Army colleagues carry Andy McFarland's coffin at his funeral

The family of a serving military man have been left in a state of “shock” and “devastation” following his death.

The coffin of Andy McFarland, a lance corporal, was draped with the Union Flag and carried by pallbearers clad in Royal Irish Regiment dress uniform during his funeral on Friday.

Family and friends during the funeral of Royal Irish soldier Andy McFarland

Family and friends during the funeral of Royal Irish soldier Andy McFarland

His regimental headdress and belt were placed on top.

Among those attending his funeral was Army veteran and UUP MLA Doug Beattie, who said his death on July 12 was a result of suicide.

The two of them had served together in the 1 Royal Irish battle group during a 2011 tour of Afghanistan.

Mr Beattie said that his nickname had been “hard-to-kill Andy”, partly due to an incident in which a bullet struck a magazine which he had been carrying and bounced off – something which Mr Beattie said had saved his life.

Andy McFarland was a father of three

Andy McFarland was a father of three

Mr Beattie said he was not sure what the factors were which had led to his suicide.

He added that this was the third suicide which he knew of on the island of Ireland involving personnel who had been on the same tour of Afghanistan.

He said that Lance Corporal McFarland’s wife (who he had become separated from at the time of his death) was left “distraught”.

He also left behind three children. He was in his mid-30s.

“I think it’s a shock, it’s devastation,” he said.

“I think everybody sort of tries to grasp the reason why. And I don’t think you really can find that reason why, to be perfectly honest.

“I think that will trouble people for many years to come in the family.”

The funeral was held at Green Pastures Church in Galgorm, to the west of Ballymena.

‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus’ were both sung at the service.

Mr Beattie said people at the funeral had talked about “how much they loved him and how much fun he was”.

He said the whole “flavour” of the event was this: “Saying goodbye to a fellow soldier – although it wasn’t a full-blown military funeral, it had military funeral trappings.”

He was buried at Cullybackey New Cemetery.

Donations were requested for the charity Combat Stress, which aids Armed Forces personnel with mental health problems.

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