'Through her organ donation so many others will be kept alive' – hundreds attend funeral of 'selfless' young teacher

Hundreds of mourners gathered at a west Belfast church yesterday to pay tribute to a “selfless” teacher.

Fionnuala Kennedy, who was 28 and originally from the Glen Road area of Belfast, died at the Royal Victoria Hospital on Monday after an accident at her Lisburn home two days earlier.

The mother-of-one lived there with her son Lorcan and partner Ciaran Hughes, who is also a teacher.

Pupils from St Teresa’s Primary, Mr Hughes’ school, and from Sir Oliver Plunkett’s where Fionnuala taught, formed a guard of honour as the coffin was carried into the church.

A heartbroken Ciaran bore his “amazing” partner’s coffin along with five others.

Many could only pay their respects in the grounds of the chapel, such were the number of people there.

After family tributes, Fr Brendan Hickland led the funeral mass.

He praised Fionnuala’s “generous and selfless ways”.

“Many times as a teacher, she’d have spoken to her pupils about the resurrection during Easter time,” he said.

“That message she was teaching was rooted in her life.

“Through her organ donation, so many others will be kept alive because of research. Surely that’s a sign that Fionnuala knew she could give life beyond her own death.”

Fr Hickland told the congregation of a time when the teacher told him that at her own funeral, she didn’t want mourners to wear black.

“For those of you who are wearing black, don’t feel bad, because you weren’t to know,” he said light-heartedly.

He continued: “She had a level of generosity, a level of selflessness. This level of giving without counting the cost.

“That level of generosity and selflessness are two qualities of her nature created in the likeness of God.”

The priest outlined what he called the importance of giving love, whatever the cost.

Using a phrase he was told by a family member, Fr Hickland said: “Shout it from the rooftops, life is so very precious.”

Earlier this week, St Oliver Plunkett’s principal Paddy McCabe paid tribute.

He had said: “Fionnuala’s commitment to her children, her parents and the whole school family will live long in the memory, but not as long as her smile and infectious laugh.

“The shock we are feeling as a school community pales into complete insignificance compared to the grief of her family.”

Fionnuala is survived by her partner Ciaran, son Lorcan, parents Fiona and Paul, sisters Caoimhe and Eimer, brothers Paul and Eamonn, niece Rioghnach and the wider family circle.

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