A young relative of those who died in the devastating fire in Carrickmines, outside Dublin, has been treated like a celebrity after being blessed by Pope Francis.
William, who suffers from a lung disease, was with his mother Margaret O’Leary Connors among the thousands of Roma and Travellers for the special audience with the pontiff in the Vatican when they got a personal greeting.
“He was quite excited,” she said.
“He thinks he’s a bit of a celebrity now. He was blessed by the Pope and then he got a selfie. Afterwards people started coming up to him and he was given things to hold in his hands.”
Ms O’Leary Connors works with the Southside Travellers Action Group and her mother was part of the extended Connors family left devastated by the fire in the halting site in Glenamuck over two weeks ago. Thomas, 27, and Sylvia Connors, 25, and their three children, Jim, five, Christy, two, and five-month-old baby Mary died in the blaze. Ms Connors’s brother Willie Lynch, his partner Tara Gilbert, and their two children Jodie, aged eight, and Kelsey, aged four, also died as did Willie’s brother Jimmy.
Up to 7,000 Roma, including about 300 Irish Travellers, came from across Europe and further afield for the ceremony. In his address to the thousands of pilgrims the Pope said: “We no longer want to attend family tragedies where children die of cold or in the flames, or become objects in the hands of depraved people.”
The Pope criticised the indifference to other ways of life and an inability to accept different customs. But he also urged the pilgrims not to do anything that was not worthy of God’s name “deceit, fraud, cheating, quarrels”.