The community of Creeslough witnessed a night of healing, hope, music and remembrance for 10 people killed in a tragic explosion

Hundreds of family, friends and community members of the victims of the Creeslough tragedy, which killed 10 people in a petrol station explosion, gathered tonight for a healing and music event.

Families devastated by the tragedy thanked those who bravely fought to save their loved ones at an emotional concert of hope tonight.

Ten were killed when an Applegreen gas station was left in ruins after an explosion on a busy Friday afternoon October 7 last year.

Rescue service members, assisted by local residents, spent the night pulling survivors and the deceased from the rubble of the disaster.

A concert attended by some of the biggest names in Irish show business helped heal the huge scar left on the local community.

The organizers stressed that the concert is not a fundraiser, but an event intended to give the village a sense of hope for the future.

Tickets for the Creeslough Together concert, held at the Aura Leisure Center in Letterkenny, sold out within hours of going on sale just before Christmas.

Tickets were issued to the families of the victims of the tragedy and to everyone who volunteered after the disaster.

Many brought together by the tragedy greeted and hugged again, sharing their personal moments as they met before the concert.

Normally a busy center for the local community, there was only a lone voice when one of the organizers, Ciaran O’Donnell, announced the names of five-year-old Shauna Flanagan Garwe and her father Robert Garwe, 50, Catherine O’Donnell, 39, and their son James Monaghan (13), Leona Harper (14), Jessica Gallagher (24), James O’Flaherty (48), Martin McGill (49), Martina Martin (49) and Hugh Kelly (59).

A minute of reflection followed.

The idea for the concert came about after a conversation between former Westlife star Brian McFadden and music promoter Joe Gallagher.

Brian, whose father Brendan is from Creeslough, and Joe got the ball rolling.

A host of Irish stars soon signed up, including Brian Kennedy, Keith Duffy, Mickey Joe Harte and Lisa McHugh.

The event was co-hosted by Donegal stars Moya Brennan from Clannad and Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh from Altan.

The pair elicited a huge emotional response when they appeared on The Late Late Show just a week after the tragedy, playing the Beatles song In My Life in tribute to the people of Donegal village, which they performed again tonight.

“Even though this happened in Creeslough, it happened to all Donegals because we were all with you guys,” altan singer Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh told the crowd.

Just before taking the stage, Moya Brennan admitted she was nervous about hosting the event but was also very excited.

“I was hesitant when they asked me to co-host it with Mairead, but there’s a lovely atmosphere and vibe and there’s a great sense of hope. The whole night turns around – ‘we haven’t forgotten’.

“There are people here who haven’t met since between the first responders and the families and I think it’s a wonderful idea to bring them together,” she said.

She added that she hopes families understand the concert is for them.

“We share the burden with them and they know that and that really helps people not to be on their own. When you have no words, music does a lot.”

Singer Brian Kennedy said Donegal and Creeslough always held a very special place in his heart and he simply couldn’t help but say yes when asked to perform.

“When Creeslough happened everyone was down. I have best friends in Gortahork and I have spent many Christmases here and I would have filled up at this service station in Creeslough many times.”

He compared the destruction and death caused by the accidental explosion to that caused by terrorist bombings during the riots.

“I grew up on Falls Road in Belfast where, unfortunately, scenes like this were not uncommon,” he said.

He said the Creeslough blast was “just so tragic and so scary”.

“We have learned during Covid the importance of thanking first responders, and not just by clapping in the street, but by making sure they are paid properly.

“And this is our way of thanking the first responders at Creeslough for everything they had to go through that night.”

Father Duffy, a priest in Creeslough, attended all the funerals of those killed in the tragedy.

During the event, he said he wanted to thank the organizing committee of Ciaran O’Donnell, Ciaran Brogan and Joe Gallagher for making the event possible.

“This is a small thank you to the emergency services and all the helpers in the night and in the days after this tragedy.

“We also wanted the people of Creeslough to know that we are walking with them in solidarity now and in the future,” he said.

As well as some familiar faces, local schools also attended the concert including Scoil Mhuire and Faugher National School.

Accompanied by pianist Claire Bowes, who lost her sight in the 1998 Omagh bombing, the night reached an emotional climax as the schools sang Phil Coulter’s “The Town I Love So Well”.

Students from Mulroy College Secondary School, who lost two students, James Monaghan and Leona Harper, as well as two parents of students in the tragedy, Catherine O’Donnell and Martina Martin, also performed at the concert.

More than 1,400 people attended the concert, including a number of invited guests including Dana, Tony Hamilton, Managing Director of the Celtic FC Foundation and TD Malcolm Noonan, representing the Government and Councilor Liam Blaney, Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council.

A full investigation into the possible cause of the explosion is still ongoing.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris recently said the investigation will take some time because of its complexity.

“Ultimately we would hope to come to a definitive explanation of what happened and that is what we are working towards and why we put so much time and effort into investigating the scene and gathering testimony,” he said.

Speaking after being invited to a recent meeting of the Donegal Joint Policing Committee, he joined the experts in saying he hoped they would reach a satisfactory conclusion as to the cause of the blast.

He added: “The investigation is adequate and well resourced in relation to what it sets out to do. She just needs to have time to perform them.

“You can imagine the complexity of the evidence retrieved and the expert analysis and conclusions drawn from it, but I can’t say what the future will unfold in relation to this, but hopefully we can find an answer.” The community of Creeslough witnessed a night of healing, hope, music and remembrance for 10 people killed in a tragic explosion

Fry Electronics Team

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