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Down man is charged with setting fire that killed sisters on Inishbofin

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — A County Down waiter, with an address in Clifden, Co. Galway, has been charged with manslaughter and arson in connection with the July 6 blaze that killed three elderly sisters on Inishbofin Island.

When charged last week, Alan Murphy, 25, said: "I wish I could change it, but I can’t. I’m sorry."

Meanwhile, the entire tightly knit community on the island, which is off County Galway, and many summer visitors turned out to pay tribute to three elderly sister, two on holiday from Britain.

Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam and seven priests presided at the funeral Mass in the island’s St Colman’s Church, whose fire extinguishers had been used to try to fight the blaze.

The eldest of the sisters, Eileen Coyne, 81, a widow, in whose Middle Quarter home the three were sleeping when the fire broke out on July 6, and Miss Margaret Concannon, 72, a retired air traffic controller who lived in Reading, Berkshire, were buried on the island.

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Coyne was buried alongside her husband, Austin, who died in 1990, and Concannon was laid to rest alongside her mother, also Margaret, who died in 1971.

The remains of Mrs. Bridget McFadden, 79, from Slough, a mother of two daughters and a son living in England, were removed from the island Monday for burial in England.

Three brothers of the dead women live on the island, another brother is lives in Staten Island and a sister lives on Clare Island off the Mayo coast.

The island priest, Fr. Declan Carroll, paid a moving tribute to the sisters and those who risked their lives fighting the fire and appealed for a spirit of forgiveness.

Fog prevented President Mary McAleese attending the removal of the sisters and she was represented by her aide-de-camp at the funeral. Also there was Islands Minister Eamon O Cuiv and former Fine Gael Islands Minister Donal Carey.

Among the gifts delivered at the Offertory were a music tape signifying Concannon’s love of the arts, a potted plant for Coyne’s love of gardening and soda bread for McFadden’s love of baking.

The small community of 215 are shocked by the tragedy — the worst since 1927 when 25 Galway fishermen, including nine from the island, were drowned.

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