Faiths Mix as Irish Mourn 3 Young Brothers
On a cold, gray July day, in the “saddest of sad funerals,” the people of Northern Ireland said a tear-filled farewell Tuesday to three young brothers burned to death in a sectarian attack that came as they slept.
As a bell tolled, the small white coffins of Richard, Mark and Jason Quinn--three boys born to a Roman Catholic mother who were being raised as Protestants--were carried into a rural Catholic church by strapping men whose faces were contorted with grief.
The hundreds of Catholic and Protestant mourners who overflowed the Church of Our Lady and St. Patrick wept throughout much of the 90-minute Mass. But it was a heartfelt poem written by two women who knew the boys that struck the deepest chord--and drew spontaneous applause.
“Why would someone do this, is the question on our lips. Who would have so much evil at their fingertips?” one of the women, Andrea Ramsey, read in a strong, clear voice.
The crowd murmured its approval of the line “Oh Lord, please let the evil people be brought to justice someday.”
Tensions spilling over from a Protestant march blocked since July 5 near Portadown, 60 miles southwest of Ballymoney, were blamed for the Sunday morning firebombing of the Quinn house.
Authorities said they believed the family was targeted because Christine Quinn, 29, lived there with her Protestant boyfriend. Two men are being questioned in connection with the attack.
Quinn and the boys’ 12-year-old brother, Lee, who survived because he was spending the night at his grandmother’s, were still in shock Tuesday, sitting dazed and without expression during the Mass.
Not so the 12 pallbearers, who found the task of carrying the little coffins to the altar almost more than they could bear. They leaned on each other for support and comforted those among them who broke down in tears. Pictures of the smiling boys--ages 11, 10 and 9--lay atop the white coffins.
During “this saddest of sad funerals,” Rev. Patrick Walsh told the congregation that in the wake of the killings “voices have been raised--voices of sanity, voices of reason.”