‘Heroic’ effort to bring Michael home praised as he is laid to rest

The funeral cortege for Michael McGinley makes its way from his aunt's home in Strabane Old Road, yesterday, to St. Columb's Church Waterside for Requiem Mass. DER138GS026
The funeral cortege for Michael McGinley makes its way from his aunt's home in Strabane Old Road, yesterday, to St. Columb's Church Waterside for Requiem Mass. DER138GS026

A priest has praised the ‘heroic’ and ‘dignified’ search operation led by the family of Derry man, Michael McGinley, whose body was recovered from the River Foyle on Friday.

Father Neil Farren, speaking at the Gobnascale man’s Requiem Mass in St. Columb’s Church, Waterside, yesterday, also called for mental health issues to be addressed to prevent further tragedies .

The late Michael McGinley.

The late Michael McGinley.

Mr. McGinley’s remains were recovered from the river almost nine weeks after he had gone missing.

His siblings and wider family led the funeral procession the short distance from the Top of the Hill area, where he lived, to the Chapel Road church for the 12.00 noon Requiem Mass. Many of those gathered wore T-shirts with the message ‘RIP Wee Lumpa’ and ‘RIP Brother’ in tribute to Michael.

In his Homily, Fr. Farren spoke of how the family never gave up hope in their search for Michael, despite their own agony and grief. “The family, with friends and others, have been searching the banks of the River Foyle twice daily, up early as well and with large torches searching deep into the late evenings, even in the most winter of weathers. Nothing fazed them, simply heroic in their dignified search,” said Fr. Farren.

He also praised Foyle Search and Rescue, who recovered Michael’s remains, as “the other unsung heroes of our city” and the other search and rescue parties and sub aqua teams who had assisted the family.

Flowers and momentums for Michael McGinley left beside the River Foyle during the search operation.   DER0618GS029

Flowers and momentums for Michael McGinley left beside the River Foyle during the search operation. DER0618GS029

Fr. Farren said the past nine weeks had been “horrendous” for each of Michael’s relatives.

“They have been through every emotion in the textbook of their hearts. But, over and above all their distressing emotions, they have been brave. Their dignity has shone and been noticed by many,” he maintained.

Fr Farren spoke of Michael McGinley’s “complex mind that had him tortured this last while,” especially following on from the deaths of his father, mother and uncle in quick succession.

He said that Michael’s family, both while he was alive and after he died, “went beyond the call of duty.”

It was now imperative, he said, that something was done to address the mental health issues affecting so many. “In the nine weeks since Michael went into the River Foyle, there have been 28 attempts by others in this city,” Fr Farren noted.

“Thankfully, they were got in time, back to safety. That’s not simply a statistic, but a reality check of how much pain there is out there in our society today.

“Mental health, be it in our city or beyond, needs to be addressed more, to prevent further tragedies. It is an issue, that is being highlighted more and more by society at large as we hear in the media, which is good, for it enables those who are struggling to not fear their plight, or sense they are on their own in their darkness, but to know with God’s help and the help of others there will come in time, a new dawn that will replace their distress, a new day where hope will return, and a zest for life will be, despite any enveloping darkness that presently pervades.

“May the determination that the Coyle and McGinley families had, that shone out to find Michael until he was recovered, be a source of motivation for anyone in our wider community who is struggling, to keep hope alive themselves to persevere, to come through what needs to be got through with hope.

“Ending it all is not the answer. We pray to God for all in our city, whatever their religious denomination or none, that all who are in anguish at this time, may be saved from harm’s way. We pray to God, strength for each of our peoples this day and to keep all of us from harm.

“This family certainly does not want any other family in our city to go through what they have gone through. To have to search and search and search as this family has done. To now mourn the loss of a family member as they now mourn.”

He also urged Michael’s family to recall with fondness the times they spent with him in Derry and during annual holidays in Malin Head.

“Share the good memories, be able to laugh as well as cry together as you share those other days of yore with your Michael,” Fr. Farren said.

“We pray to God at this time for your support through these difficult days ahead. May you find strength to cope in yourself or with another’s help, through the time ahead.”

He added that the McGinley and Coyle families would like to thank all who assisted them in any way over these past nine weeks.

“Every little or huge part you played, helped them to no end, to cope and to bear up with the dignity they have shown throughout. They thank you sincerely,” he said.

Following the Requiem Mass at St. Columb’s Church, burial took place at Ardmore Cemetery yesterday afternoon.