By Cate McCurry, PA
A mother who died after her car plunged into a river in Cork has been described as a kind and loyal friend with a “heart of gold”.
Teacher Gillian Daly (44) died after her car entered the River Lee on Friday night.
Her passenger sons Evan and Luke, aged 10 and 12, were able to free themselves and swim to safety.
The boys attended their mother’s funeral and brought offertory gifts to represent her.
Mourners at St Patrick’s Church in Millstreet were told she had dedicated her life to her sons.
In his eulogy, her brother Jason said she brought joy to everyone she met.
He read out a tribute on behalf of Gillian’s husband, John O’Connell, whom she married in the same church 13 years ago.
“There isn’t enough time and there aren’t enough words to do justice to the lifetime of joy and happiness that you brought to the people around you, and especially to me and to our two beautiful children, Evan and Luke,” he said.
“You did me the greatest honour of my life by agreeing to marry me and our wedding was the happiest day of our lives, at least until Evan and Luke arrived in 2010 and 2012.
“As with everything else, you took to motherhood like a duck to water.
“There has never been two children who have been as cherished and loved by a mom of two handsome boys.
“You’ve raised two fine, brave young boys. The values you’ve instilled in them will make it a very easy job for me to finish your life’s work and raise them to be the young men that any mom will be proud of.”
Paying tribute to his sister, Mr Daly said their parents, John Joe and Helen, were so proud of her and everything she achieved.
“You were a loving, caring daughter to both of them. As a sister, we couldn’t have asked for better. You were kind, caring, funny and always put everyone else’s needs ahead of your own,” he added.
“In your teaching years, you were devoted to your students. The kids clearly adored you, which is evidenced by the sentiments that have been expressed over the last few days.”
He continued: “We have never remotely considered the thought of you, Gillian, not being with us for years and years to come.
“It is breaking all of our hearts to know that we will never be able to hold or hug or spend cherished time together with you ever again.
“Everybody loved you. Gillian, you had a heart of gold. You lived your life for your sons, always caring and worrying about them.
“You dedicated yourself totally to them and your gentle and warm nature lives on through them and will forevermore.
“To Gillian’s sons, Evan and Luke: you are the most kind, caring and wonderful boys.
“But now you are also the bravest boys we know. Your calm kind, caring nature is a testament to the way Gillian and John have raised you.”
Mr Daly also thanked the emergency and rescue services involved in the recovery of Gillian’s body.
Fr Jack Fitzgerald said the worlds of the O’Connell and Daly families were turned upside down on Friday.
“Thankfully, the remarkable and courageous escape of your two lovely boys who are here with their dad,” Fr Fitzgerald said.
“The death of Gillian, of course, at a young age makes us all realise how fragile life is and indeed at times how unfair life can be.
“From the personal tributes that I’ve heard around the street and from the locals who knew her, and indeed from reading some of the tributes, everybody who knew Gillian thought very highly of her, as a wife, as a mother, as a teacher and as a friend.
“She endeared herself to many people that she came in contact with, and indeed, her former pupils.
“Sadly, of course, the plans that Gillian would have made for the future along with her family or her friends, they now have to be left aside and what has happened in the past becomes a ritual of memories.”
He said her death has “stunned and numbed” the community, and left people heartbroken.