Michaela was the daughter of popular Gaelic Football manager Mickey Harte and newly-wed wife to John McAreavey, Gaelic footballer and nephew to the Bishop of Dromone. While the couple were on their honeymoon, Micheala was murdered in what seems to be a petty theft gone wrong. Needless to say, the whole country has been shocked by this sudden and brutal event.
It's been notable that the bereaved families and communities have been using the language of faith in their public statements to the media. It has been notable too that the press haven't shied away from reporting on Michaela's strong Catholic faith and the assistance provided by the Church community at this time. A good example is this linked article from the Irish Independent.
Within an hour of Michaela's body being found in Mauritius, news of her death reverberated across sporting and political circles in Ireland, making the news by midday. It wasn't just the shattered promise and optimism of a couple of newly-weds on honeymoon that resonated, or the fact that she was the daughter of the legendary Tyrone football manager, Mickey Harte. She was also a beautiful, fashion-mad young woman, who was also a devout Catholic and a fluent Irish speaker, a pioneer and a huge GAA fan: for many people, she represented a side of Ireland that isn't often so evident these days.May the Lord grant her eternal rest and support to her grieving family.
She was Mickey and Marian Harte's only daughter, sandwiched between three brothers, Mark, Michael and Matthew. She was raised in the village of Ballygawley, a close-knit community with an active parish, and educated by the Loreto nuns in Omagh and later completed her teacher training with the order. She taught Irish at St Patrick's Academy in Dungannon at the time of her death.
Francis Downey, a childhood friend of John's, summed her up last week: "She should be remembered as the nicest person you could ever meet. She was a loving woman, she loved her family, she loved football, she loved religion. She would have done anything to help anyone."
He said that John was a "lad's lad" until he clapped eyes on Michaela when they were both students at Queen's University Belfast in 2005. She was studying to be a teacher; he was reading business.
She was a devout Catholic: he was nicknamed the Bishop, after his uncle, Bishop John McAreavey. They went out together for three years before they got engaged. He brought her to Paris and proposed. They married two years later, on December 30, in Michaela's local parish, at St Malachy's Church in Ballymacilroy, Co Tyrone.
They were to move into their new house in Banbridge, Co Down. Their friend, Eamonn, told how he had already helped them to move in some of their things before the wedding, and how John was "happy as Larry", fussing about the heating and making sure everything was just so.
The Bishop of Dromore, John McAreavey, who married the couple, said that she was the love of his life, "absolutely and truly".
"He adored her and talked about her with such warmth. He loved everything about her: her faith, her personality, her love for things Gaelic and Irish, her sparkle. I have a sense that a light has gone out with the death of Michaela," he said.
Mickey Harte seemed proof of that when emerged from his home in Ballygawley, flanked by his two sons, to read a statement to the media on Tuesday. He appeared shrunken and pale, his face contorted into bewildered grief, as he spoke of his loss.
"Michaela was a lovely girl, a wonderful daughter, a brilliant sister for these boys and we will always treasure her. She was a beautiful girl. She couldn't be better, couldn't be nicer. God love her, we are so, so sorry.
"We are equally sorry for poor John, her husband, whom she adored. He adored her. They did not get so long to share their lives with each other. It is such a shame. Our hearts are broken."
He pleaded with the media to "lay off" John. "John is out in Mauritius. He is isolated out there. It has been an awful time. Our hearts go out to him and I would ask everyone to please respect his privacy. . . Please lay off. We are speaking on his behalf. We are devastated. Through us, he wants to say to leave him alone. He is in such a lonely place and even his own family members are not out there yet."
But the Catholic community had already rallied its forces, something Michaela, would have no doubt appreciated. Michaela was a former Loreto girl and the order happened to have four Irish nuns stationed in a convent in Mauritius. Sister Noelle Corscadden, with the Loreto Sisters in Rathfarnham, contacted them. So too had parishioners in Ballygawley; one of the nuns, Sister Theresa Clarke, was from originally Tyrone and many local parishioners stayed in touch.
And so first thing Tuesday morning, three Irish nuns left their convent in the central plains of Mauritius and set off for the north-east coast, and Legends Hotel, to offer comfort to Michaela's heart-broken husband. They talked at length and later they brought him to Mass in a nearby parish. They returned over the following days, offering solace and prayers, as family and relatives began to arrive from Ireland. They included his brother, Michaela's brother and his father, who had been holidaying in Thailand with his mother. An Irish priest with the Holy Ghost Fathers in Mauritius stayed by John's side for three days. Even the local parish priest, Fr Jaques Harel, who celebrated a Mass in honour of Michaela at the hotel on Thursday, had trained in Ireland. Michaela was apparently the first tourist to be murdered in Mauritius in living memory. For a small African island dependent on affluent visitors to its luxury spas to shore up its emerging economy, her death was not only a human tragedy but a diplomatic incident that required fast action.