A young Riverdance star is among the three Irish women presumed dead in the Air France disaster.

A champion Irish dancer, Dr Eithne Walls was from Ballygown in Co. Down and had been living in Dublin where she worked as a doctor.

Riverdance chief Julian Erskine said that the dance troupe had been devastated by the news.

Erskine, executive producer of Riverdance, said Walls was a well-known and popular member of the cast.

“They’re all devastated. She was a very popular and talented member of the troupe,” he said.

Eithne had been a dancer for over 20 years, ranking consistently in all of the major competitions and held medals from the Ulster, All-Ireland, American and British Nationals and the World Championships.

She joined Riverdance after she retired from competition in 2000, and her first stint with the show saw her do a year on Broadway.

Soon after she began six years of medical studies at Trinity College, Dublin.

However, she managed to combine dancing with her studies and performed with the Riverdance "flying squad," dancing in China, Qatar, Germany and France.

She returned as a full-time cast member in 2004 and joined Riverdance at the Gaiety in Dublin for its summer run.

A family friend told the Belfast Telegraph: “Everyone in Ballygowan and the Darragh Cross area is totally stunned by this news.

The Walls family released a statement on Tuesday in which they expressed their daughter's love for Irish dancing.
“Many people have known Eithne through Irish dancing, a passion she had continued throughout her studies and into her professional life.
“We have been overwhelmed by the messages of support from so many family and friends in our community and throughout the world.”