‘Those first minutes are forever with me’

A DONEGAL priest who provided round-the-clock pastoral care to the families of those killed in the Creeslough tragedy has said those who died will never be forgotten.

Fr John Joe Duffy was speaking at Knock National Novena on Monday, where he was given the honour of leading the Knock National Novena. He was the first guest speaker at the special event in Mayo on Monday.

Fr Duffy has been widely praised for the compassion and care he showed when he tended to the community of the small-knit village following an explosion at the Applegreen service station in October last year, which claimed the lives of 10 people.


Addressing the congregation at the solemn Basilica in Knock, Fr John Joe Duffy recalled the harrowing incident.

“Our hearts will never forget those that were taken from us,” he said.

“We were in a tsunami of suffering and tragedy and it was extremely difficult for the whole community.”

Fr John Joe Doherty said the “tidal wave of support” in the form of prayers, letters and cards which came to the people of Creeslough in the aftermath of the tragedy from all over the country and beyond lifted the community.

“It lifted us up. We felt we were being helped by people everywhere in their hearts and in their prayers. If Creeslough teaches us anything it is how important prayer is and it is how important a presence is. It is important for us to reach out beyond ourselves,” said Fr John Joe Duffy.

He praised President Michael D Higgins for his “fatherly care” to the people of Creeslough.

“I want to mention our President , Michael D Higgins, who showed us a very fatherly care. The support and comfort that was received from him by the families was something that was very much appreciated,” he said.


Fr John Joe Duffy told of how he kept the church in Creeslough open, with the lights and heating on so that people “could come in to be together and try and find solace”.

Rosaries were said and candles were lit in remembrance of those killed, injured and bereaved.

He said the community of Creeslough and its residents are strong.

“We continue to survive. And we are becoming stronger with the help of your prayers and your support and with the help of our faith, our togetherness and people caring for one another,” he said.

Fr John Joe Duffy told of how he was travelling back from a funeral in south Donegal when he received the devastating phone call about the explosion.

He said nothing could have prepared him for what he would witness when he arrived at the scene an hour later.

“The initial scene was one of tremendous shock, horror, disbelief. Those first few minutes are forever with me,” he said.

He prayed over the bodies of the deceased when they were removed from the building.

“The silence was deafening, yet I was surrounded by lots and lots of people but you couldn’t hear a bird singing.”

Fr John Joe Duffy also praised the emergency services and all those who risked their own lives to help save others.

The Raphoe Diocese Pilgrimage will take place on Saturday. Bishop Alan McGuckian SJ will be guest speaker during the 3pm concelebrated mass in the Basilica.

A bus will leave the Cathedral car park at 7.30am on Saturday, heading for Knock Shrine via Ballybofey. Everyone is welcome to attend and they are asked to bring a packed lunch.

For more information contact 0874324464.

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