Fr Con Cronin, who lost his life when he was hit by a bus in Monkstown on Tuesday, performed a selfless heroic act in his final moments, pushing a woman out of the path of the bus that ultimately took his life.
Locals have said Fr Con was crossing the road with a woman on Tuesday when the bus veered out of its trajectory and headed for the kerb on the right side of the road, hitting three cars in its path along with Fr Con.
It is understood the local priest, who was loved with abundance, proved his altruistic spirit by using his last moments to save the life of another.
Local Councillor Marcia D’Alton said of the story that is circulating of Fr Con’s heroism that the priest “lived as a hero and died as a hero” while Independent Councillor Ben D’Alton O’Sullivan said Fr Con, “practised what he preached.”
Ballincollig Bus Éireann driver Mark Wills, who also died in the tragic accident, is to be laid to rest on Saturday in his hometown. Gardaí believe he may have suffered a medical trauma that caused him to lose control of the vehicle.
Mark was the loving father of Cillian and Rebecca, beloved son of Stephen and Madelene and brother of Gwen, his twin Stephen, Brian and Ken.
Due to current government guidelines, Mark’s funeral will be private, but his Requiem Mass will be live-streamed at 11am on Saturday. A message of condolence can be left on the RIP.ie site under the funeral notice for Mark Wills.
Gardaí said the crash occurred when the 216 bus hit priest Fr Con Cronin, who was out walking, and also collided with a number of parked cars.
The bus driver, named locally as Mark Wills of Ballincollig, in his 50s, also died in the crash. Gardaí believe he may have suffered a medical trauma that caused him to lose control of the vehicle.
The incident occurred on the Strand Road linking the village with Passage West.
Lord Mayor and Ballincollig resident Colm Kelleher described Mr Wills as a “gentleman”.
"It's with great sadness to hear of the incident in Monkstown where two people sadly lost their lives," he said. "My thoughts and prayers go out to Fr Con Cronin and Mark, who was well known in the village here. He was a gentleman and a great soul who always had a smile on his face. I'm thinking about both of their families and friends today.
"May they rest in peace."
Fr Con, who was 72, was a much-loved member of the local community. Fintan Gavin, Bishop of Cork and Ross, said his death was a shock.
“Fr Con has served in the Harbour Parishes since 2012 establishing a warm rapport both pastorally and personally with all to whom he ministered, and all who had contact with him.
“He will be remembered fondly for his unique sense of humour and his openness to all people.”
Passage West Councillor Marcia D’Alton said Fr Con was extremely non-judgemental and had room in his heart for everyone.
“He was absolutely adored. He had an extraordinary energy and a way with people. He always made you smile and he connected with people in a way I have never ever seen before, young and old. He was much more than a priest. He used his role to deliver love and kindness that he felt the world should be full of. It didn’t matter to him what church a person was part of.”
Mrs D’Alton said Fr Con did a lot of visiting with local people in the Harbour area and said he always brought people comfort.
“It will be difficult to fill his shoes. It was a privilege to know him.
Councillor Seamus McGrath said the loss of Fr Con would be “deeply felt” by the community.
“He was a good-natured man, a real character, a trooper. He was very positive and upbeat. He was a social man who always made himself available, a true man of the community. He was very approachable, you could talk to him about anything.”
Mr McGrath also said Fr Con was a character who was well able to pass a joke.
“It is truly shocking for the community, his loss will be deeply felt. My sympathies are with his family.”
During the lockdowns, in the midst of the pandemic, Fr Con interviewed local members of the community and shared the conversations on the Harbour Parishes Facebook page in order to keep people in the loop and bring some local chat into their homes.
The gregarious priest interviewed Councillor McGrath as part of the series and the Carrigaline Councillor said the initiative was very well received.
“There were a lot of comments from people online, saying they really enjoyed the conversations and it was very interesting and entertaining.”
TD Michael McGrath also mourned the great loss of a pillar of the community, posting on Facebook: “The lower harbour community is very close knit and will rally round in every possible way. An enormous void has been left in the community after this terrible accident.”
Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire also took time to acknowledge the tragedy he said: “A devastating blow to the community in Monkstown and Passage West. RIP to the pedestrian and driver.”
Fr Con Cronin, who grew up in Bantry, had been serving in the Lower Harbour Parishes of Passage West and Monkstown since 2012, after returning from Africa where he had been on the Missions.
Ordained in 1979, Fr Con had been in the priesthood for 42 years. Fr Con was in Passage West and Monkstown alongside Fr Sean O’Sullivan.
Fr Con was described as a “natural extrovert” who used to “tell it as it should be”. A local Monkstown resident called Fr Con ‘the people’s priest’ who was most beloved.
“He was an ordinary man, there is great sadness in the community, you couldn’t underestimate his popularity.”