So many memories | 

Joint funeral of tragic Ballybunion siblings told ‘it won't be the same without them’

The remains of both brother and sister were taken to St John’s Church in Lecarrow for a joint requiem mass this afternoon

Desmond Byrne and Muriel Eriksson

Neil FetherstonhaughSunday World

The funerals of the tragic hero dad Desmond ‘Dessie’ Byrne (52) who drowned trying to rescue his adored 62-year-old Swedish-based sister, Muriel Eriksson in Ballybunion last week heard how he had always “joked about this day”.

The remains of both brother and sister were taken to St John’s Church in Lecarrow for a joint requiem mass this afternoon with Mr Byrne’s burial then taking place at the local cemetery.

Mrs Eriksson’s remains will be cremated at Lakelands Crematorium in Cavan on Wednesday afternoon

When Dessie’s son Dean was asked to say a word about his dad, the celebrating priest said he had “obviously picked this up from his father, as he has to have the last word too”.

“I've never been one to give a public speech or do anything like this but my dad would always joke about this day, just like he joked about everything,” Dean said.

“And one of the things he joked about was that he wanted me to give him a speech and play the piano at his funeral. He passed too soon for me to be able to play the piano so I'm afraid the speech will have to do.

“My dad was a great man and we did everything together. He was always out somewhere at a show or a car boot sale bringing me and Josh with him for the spin in his blue van.

“And when our neighbour Johnny O'Brien passed a few years ago dad said to me he would miss seeing Johnny’s Jeep driving by in the mornings.

“I didn't understand that at the time but now I think like many, we’ll will miss seeing dad’s van drive around town or driving by him in the mornings on the way to work.

“And if he spotted you driving by you knew to expect a call. Dad always worried about this day but not for himself,” Dean added.

“He always told me that if he passes I won't be alone. He told me that Billy and James along with many others would be here for us along with the whole Byrne family.

“And from the second the news broke about him and Muriel he was like on many other occasions proven right.

“I was waiting for him to call on the phone and say, ‘didn't I tell you or what did I say?’ Within the hour the house was flooded with Byrnes and friends bringing everything we could have needed and they have been with us since.

“The community has also been great and my dad would have been so happy to see how everyone came together to get everything organised so that we wouldn't have to worry.

“It's sad enough losing your dad but it's so much worse when you not only lose your dad but also your aunt,” Dean added.

“I haven't been able to fully grieve for Muriel yet and it hasn’t fully set in that she's gone. I'll miss being handed the phone and seeing Muriel's big smile on FaceTime asking me how is school and work.

“It won't be the same without them but what I noticed over the few days since is that they may be gone but they left so much of their characteristics and their family and left us all with so many memories and stories that had us laughing for hours.

“Those stories will be passed down and told for years to come.

Mr Byrne, who is originally from Athlone, has been based in Lecarrow in Roscommon for many years where he worked as a carpenter and carpet layer.

Father of two Dessie was deeply involved in sporting and community groups in the Roscommon-Westmeath area, particularly the Lecarrow Lazers Cycle Club.

His older sister had been married and living in Malmo in Sweden in recent years but maintained very close links to Ireland.

She was very close to her younger brother and the pair would regularly enjoy short Irish breaks while she was home from Sweden.

The siblings were on a brief holiday in Ballybunion, Co Kerry, with Mr Byrne’s youngest son, Josh, when the tragedy occurred.

It is understood that the family group had only arrived in Ballybunion days before the tragedy.

Mr Byrne is survived by his devastated partner, Paulette, his sons Dean and Josh, Paulette’s daughter, Regina, and her sons, Blake and Jace.

He is also survived by his brothers Kenny, Donal, Justin and Colm, brother-in-law, Kris, who is based in Sweden, sisters-in-law, Maggie and Nong, as well as aunts, uncles and cousins.

Gardaí are treating the double tragedy on Thursday as a freak accident – but have appealed for anyone who may have witnessed the incident to contact them as they prepare a file for a Kerry coroner’s inquest expected to be held next year.

The double tragedy – the worst drowning incident in Kerry for over 30 years – shocked Ireland and renewed pleas for greater awareness of water safety.

Special pleas for people to be careful in Ireland’s seas, rivers and lakes were issued by the Coast Guard and Water Safety Ireland as the country prepares to bask in a week-long mini-heatwave with temperatures set to climb to 28 degrees.

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