January 17, 2011 / 5:44 PM / 9 years ago

Thousands attend funeral of murdered Irish bride

BALLYGAWLEY, Northern Ireland (Reuters) - Thousands of mourners, including Ireland’s president, attended the funeral of murdered honeymooner Michaela McAreavey on Monday in the church where she was married.

Michaela McAreavey's husband John (2nd L) carries her coffin during her funeral service at St Malachy's church in Ballygawley, Northern Ireland January 17, 2011. REUTERS/Paul Faith/Pool

McAreavey, the 27-year-old daughter of Gaelic football manager Mickey Harte, a major sporting figure in Ireland, was found strangled in her hotel room in Mauritius last week.

The murder has dominated news headlines in the Irish Republic and in Northern Ireland, where First Minister Peter Robinson made a special statement to the province’s assembly on her death.

“This is one of the rare tragedies that has captured public attention and united the community in grief,” Robinson said.

Irish funerals are usually well attended but Harte’s service was the biggest in the province in years. Over 400 people crammed into St Malachey’s Church in the small village of Ballygawley for the ceremony while another 300 followed it from under a marquee erected in the church grounds.

Thousands watched the service on large television screens.

Such was the media interest that a local school was turned into a press centre. Police shut a main road to traffic and used it as a car park for mourners, who were ferried to the church in buses.

Three hotel employees have been charged in connection with McAreavey’s murder.

Her husband’s uncle, the Bishop of Dromore John McAreavey, who married the couple, conducted the funeral service.

The former beauty queen contestant and Irish language teacher was known for being by her father’s side during his All-Ireland football triumphs with the Northern Irish county of Tyrone.

She was buried in her wedding gown.

Writing by Ian Graham; editing by Carmel Crimmins

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