Two weeks ago, 11,800 miles away from Drogheda, County Louth, Jill Meagher was kidnapped and murdered in Melbourne, on her way home from a night out with colleagues. Yesterday Ireland shared in Australia’s grief as thousands walked in silent procession and paid their respects at a memorial mass.
Meagher, an ABC radio employee, went missing two weeks ago, while walking a short distance home in the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick. Her body was found six days later in a shallow grave, 31 miles outside the city. A 41-year-old man, Adrian Ernest Bayley, has been charged with her rape and murder.
The 29-year-old journalist had emigrated, with her family, aged six, before returning in her late teens and going to college in Ireland. She met her husband, Tom, from Dublin, and married him three years ago before they returned to Australia to start their lives together.
The silent procession through Meagher’s hometown of Drogheda was led by her family, with children from her former school, St Oliver’s Community College, as well as town and country officials including Mayor Paul Bell, Dublin’s Mayor Clare Byrne and Irish-based Australian diplomatic representatives.
At the steps of St Peter’s Roman Catholic Church Meagher’s uncle, Michael McKeon, formerly received the local condolence books, signed by more than 10,000 well wishers.
Father Oliver Devine, the priest who married Tom and Jill Meagher three years ago, said the she would be remembered as a thinker, a composer of poetry, and someone who wanted to make a difference.
He read a poem which Meagher had written for husband on their wedding day.
She wrote: "He taught me that listening to Jewel just wasn't cool; Tried to convince me that Shakespeare was but a fool; After listening to all this waffle I just knew; So I wrote on the back of a Tesco [supermarket] receipt, I Love You."
Addressing the crowd of over 1,000 at the ceremony Devine commented on how Meagher’s tragic death had touched people around the world, “from Melbourne to Drogheda from Dublin to Perth from Boyle in Roscommon to Brisbane in Australia.”
"She has touched the hearts of all of us even if we only knew her for a short time or even if we didn't know her at all apart from what we have learned from the media," he said.
The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland Sean Brady said there are “no words which can begin to capture the overwhelming grief and loss”.
Speaking to the packed congregation the Cardinal said that Meagher represented “the hope of a new generation of Irish people”.
He said “[These people] despite being far from their homeland, were making a future for themselves abroad.”
“Jill and her husband Tom were just starting their married life together in Australia, enjoying what a country like Australia offers to people and following in the footsteps of so many Irish people who have made Australia their home.”
“For Jill and her husband Tom, that hope and their dreams came to a sudden and devastating end on September 22nd.”
Meagher’s aunt Catherine McKeon-Halpin thanked those who showed their support in Ireland and Australia.
She said “To our friends and the people of Drogheda, Australia and especially Brunswick, who marched in their thousands, you gave our families and me the courage to get through these past 2 weeks. May we offer you our sincere thanks.”
Yesterday in Melbourne Meagher’s close family and friends said an emotional goodbye at a private service at the Fawkner Memorial Park.
At the service Tom said Meagher was happiest when making others laugh. He said “I couldn’t ask for more loyalty, happiness and fun.
“Goodbye my beautiful, funny girl. I’ll love you forever.”
Her father George McKeon read a card he and his wife Edith sent to their daughter in 2004.
He read “It hard to be apart from you. So many of my thoughts are of you. Each night when the world is quiet and still, your smile and the wonderful moments we have shared crowd my mind. Then I find myself missing you even more.
“Each day as I go about my routine, you slip gently into my thoughts and make me smile. I wonder what you are doing, trust that everything is going well and hope that you miss me too.”
Mourners were given white ribbons and wristband to promote a foundation that fights violence against women.