Thousands of people joined the funeral cortege of murdered newlywed Michaela Harte, as her father football manager Mickey Harte and her widower John McAreavey followed her coffin.
President Mary McAleese, Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s aide-de-camp Michael Treacy, Martin McGuinness, deputy First Minister at Stormont, the head of the GAA, Christy Cooney, and the High Commissioner of Mauritius in the UK, Abhimanu Kundasamy were also amongst those who attended the funeral at St Malachy’s church outside Ballygawley.
One of the busiest roads in the North was blocked off to traffic as mourners came to pay their respect to Michaela’s family as the 27-year-old Irish teacher was buried in her wedding gown.
Michaela was strangled in her honeymoon suite in Mauritius just 12 days after she was married in the same church where her funeral mass was held.
The Tyrone senior gaeilc football team and local club Errigal Ciaran provided a guard of honor for the cortege, which travelled from Michaela’s parent’s home to the church. At the church her widower John’s local football club, Tullylish in County Down, along with Michaela’s form class from St Patrick’s Academy, Dungannon.
On the door of the church there were two signs which read “Family Only” however a marquee was set up outside for the public and a live audio stream was carried on RTE. Hundreds gathered outside to watch the funeral on a screen in the church’s ground.
Michaela’s coffin was brought into the church as a choir sung “The Cloud’s Veil” followed by the opening hymn “Christ Be Beside Me”.
Archbishop of Armagh, a Primate of Ireland, Sean Brady presided over the mass. Bishop of Dromore, John McAreavey, the widower’s uncle, said the couple lived for each other, their lives revolved around each other and they spoke endlessly about each other.
He said “Their hopes for the future were bound up with each other.” He called her murder an evil act that deprived Michaela of her life, John of his beautiful wife and the Harte family of a precious daughter.
“Even those of us who are older and who have had some experience of tragedy have been shaken to the core by what has happened. We are still in a state of shock.”
At the beginning of the mass a number of symbols were presented by the McAvreavey family. They included a family photo to represent her love of family, the source of her truth, integrity and devotion and rosary beads to symbolize her deep faith.
A fainne ring to symbolize her deep love of the Irish language as an Irish speaker. This small ring is an emblem worn by those who speak Irish.
A pioneer pin was presented as Michaela was a tee-totaler on religious grounds. This reflected her faith in action.
Also a flower was presented to symbolize her great beauty and also the fact that she was the Ulster Rose in the Rose of Tralee beauty contest in 2004.
The last and most poignant offering was tea and biscuits. Bishop McAreavey said this offering needed no explanation. Michaela could not have a cup of tea without a biscuit. In fact she had returned to her hotel room to get a biscuit from her suitcase when she interrupted a burglary and was murdered.