Northern Ireland

Castlewellan, County Down: Prayer service held for Ellen Finnegan

Ellen Finnegan Image copyright Assumption Grammar School
Image caption Ellen Finnegan died in the fire in a flat above her father's butcher's shop in Castlewellan

Schoolfriends of the teenager who died in a house fire in County Down have been told the community has lost a loving and generous person.

Ellen Finnegan died in a fire at her flat above her father's butcher shop in Castlewellan on Saturday.

A special prayer service was held at her school, Assumption Grammar in Ballynahinch, on Sunday.

About 200 pupils, friends and staff gathered at the school for the service.

Many of her friends wept throughout the service.

Marcelle Orsi, head of the senior school in Assumption, said: "Ellen was quite simply a very warm, loving, generous student.

"She lit up any classroom that she entered, indeed any room that she came into."

Ellen died on the third anniversary of her mother's death.

She was due to sit her final A-level exams and had been offered a place at Liverpool University.

The blaze broke out in the bedroom of the flat in Lower Square in the town at about 04:00 GMT on Saturday.

Despite efforts by paramedics to revive her, Ellen died at the scene.

It is not yet known how the fire started.


Father Conor McCarthy, who led the prayer service at Ellen's school, said the community was stunned by her death.

"To have such a tragedy occur, is really heart-stopping and it stops everyone in their tracks," he said.

"There's very little sense that we can make of such a tragedy, Ellen having been so young and to have died so suddenly and in such a tragic fashion.

"We can't make sense of it, but we can just be with one another and be assured of the presence of the Holy Spirit accompanying us at this very difficult time."

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Media captionThe fire service has appealed for people to install and maintain smoke detectors in their homes

Assumption Grammar School is arranging counselling for current and former pupils affected by Ellen's death.

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