'She was one of those girls who made an instant impression wherever she went'
A cloud of grief has descended on Ballyshannon following the tragic death of Aisling O’Connor – a much-loved young woman who gave so much to her local community.
Aisling, 21, passed away two days after a kayaking accident in Co. Kerry. A fun trip with friends in the Univerisity of Limerick Kayaking Club turned into a devastating tragedy on Saturday when two students got into difficulty near Caragh Lake.
Aisling was airlifted to University Hospital Kerry, where she sadly passed away on Monday. The second student, a 21-year-old young man, is said to be in a stable condition in hospital.
As news of Aisling’s death reached Ballyshannon, a sense of shock and heartbreak hit the town.
“She was one of those girls who made an instant impression wherever she went,” said local Councillor and neighbour Barry Sweeny.
“It is so devastating for the family. She will be sadly missed. She was so well-loved among her circles of friends. She had so much more to give.”
Aisling was in her third year of a degree in Industrial Biochemistry at UL. Before university, she attended Colaiste Cholmcille in Ballyshannon and completed her Leaving Cert in the Abbey Vocational School in Donegal, where her mother Sorcha Begley is a teacher.
As a granddaughter of historian Anthony Begley, Aisling had a keen interest in the heritage of Ballyshannon and volunteered in the local tourist office.
“She was a kind, bright spark who was so willing and helpful,” Cllr Sweeny said.
Aisling is the second eldest of five children. She is survived by her mother Sorcha Begley, Ballyshannon and father David O’Connor, Cork, her older brother Ciaran and younger siblings Matthew, Clodagh and Maeve.
Cllr Sweeny said today is a “dark day for Ballyshannon” as the town comes to terms with the loss of a popular young lady.
“My sympathies go out to both the Begley family and the O’Connor family in Cork. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family.”
Dr Des Fitzgerald, the President of the University of Limerick, also expressed his condolences following Aisling’s untimely and tragic death.
In an email sent to all UL students, Dr Fitzgerald said: “Our thoughts and prayers go out to Aisling’s family especially her parents Sorcha Begley and David O’Connor, her brothers Ciaran, Matthew and her sisters Clodagh and Maeve. We will work to support Aisling’s friends, class mates and club mates here at UL in coming to terms with this loss.”
Students affected by the loss are being encouraged to contact the university’s Chaplaincy, the Eist counselling service and the student’s union for support services.
Funeral details will be announced later.