Thousands of mourners queued in the afternoon sunshine on Sunday in Killarney, Co Kerry to pay their last respects to mother of four, Miriam Burns, who was found dead at her home in Ardshanavooly last Monday having incurred injuries to her body.
A murder investigation was launched upon the completion of a postmortem following the death of the 75-year-old.
On Sunday at St Mary’s Cathedral in the town such was the outpouring of affection for Ms Burns that the prayer service started an hour later than scheduled. The additional hour was needed to accommodate the large crowds of people who lined up to console the family of the deceased.
Her daughter, Sharon, told mourners that her mother was a “lioness” who was known locally as the “beautiful smiling lady on the bike.”
She said that Miriam was glamorous and the personification of elegance. However, Sharon indicated her mother also a tremendous strength about her.
“She was strong, powerful, a force of nature, who was great craic. She could give you what’s for if the situation required it.
"Most importantly she was brimful of compassion and love - a woman of substance, she gave her children everything in life to be happy and strong.
"The way Mam loved is an example to us all. She was so human that the words Miriam Burns could be the future definition of what humanity means.”
Sharon said her mother would like to be remembered for her bravery and her strength.
“Mam’s family and friends would like to thank Killarney, we would like to thank Ardshanavooly and we would like to thank everyone in Ireland for the way you have honoured her. Dignity and compassion has been our experience.
"In the lottery of parents we her children, we lucked out as we were very very lucky to have her as a mother.
“We are humbled and proud to have had a lioness for a mother. May she rest in peace and hopefully wherever she is, she is with her sister Brenda and our grandmother and grandfather and wherever they are they are having a bit of craic.”
'Salt of the earth'
Fr Kieran O’Brien, who was the chief celebrant at the prayer service, said that Miriam was the salt of the earth.
"You are the light of the world, you are the salt of the earth are words we use in life to compliment each other. For those of us who knew Miriam, we can say it sums her up quite well.
For those who didn’t know her, it’s like they say a picture speaks a thousand words. Over the last few days Miriam’s pictures have shown someone who is very pleasant, always smiling, someone looking her best happy out in life.
That is how she is remembered in this town and by her family.
They (the family) want it to be a celebration of her life. No matter what was going on in her life she was upbeat and had a great and positive attitude.
A loving mother to her four children and as any mother always had their interests at heart. It was an unconditional love, also including her grandchildren in Australia.”
He said that Miriam’s light “shone brightly” in Killarney.
“(She was) the lady on the bike. Her daily trips to town, Ardshanavoolu might be five minutes from town, but it took her so long to return back. Miriam was never in a rush. Willing to chat, willing to meet people. A smile, a wave as she went about her business.
To this community she was a carer. She visited the housebound and they were pleased to have her, such a caring person.”
He said that Miriam brightened up so many people’s lives merely by her presence, her actions and her words.
“I know people in this parish have looked forward to Miriam’s visits always. During this past week that light has died. We are powerless, we are in the dark and in that situation we try to feel our way around.
"We search for the light to come back on but it’s not happening. The only flicker of light at the moment are her loyal friends, her lifelong neighbours who have all rallied around. People in line this afternoon queuing in the Cathedral and outside just to off their sympathy and to offer you her family their support.
"There is a great community spirit. It won’t take away the sting of death but it helps a lot. And as Miriam did so often today we wave her off. We thank her for the light that she beamed in so many lives. She was probably unaware of what she achieved and what she meant to people in this town. I have no doubt her memory will live on.
"She is loved, she is remembered.
"So we wave you off today Miriam. We thank you for brightening up our lives. And as she would say to you her family Slan abhaile. Safe home, goodbye for a while. Miriam rest in peace.”
Fr O’Brien said that the show of solidarity in the community since the death of Miriam had been a source of comfort to her grieving family. He stressed that neighbours and friends would continue to rally around the relatives in the months to come
He added that Miriam was "house proud and garden proud" and it was fitting that roses had been placed on her coffin at her prayer service. Her service concluded with a rendition of the song “Think of Me” before her remains were brought from the church for a private cremation service tomorrow."
Meanwhile, a man in his fifties was released without charge having been arrested in connection with the murder of Ms Burns. A file will be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Ms Burns was found dead in a front room of her two-storey home in Killarney at lunchtime last Monday with unexplained injuries.
Neighbours had called to the house after one of her children, who lives abroad, expressed concern after being unable to reach her by phone.
A murder investigation was launched following the completion of the post-mortem examination carried out at University Hospital in Kerry by State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster.
The results of the postmortem were not released for operational reasons.
Gardaí believe that Ms Burns was fatally assaulted in her home sometime between last Friday and last Monday. The investigation in to her death continues.