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Tributes to foster mum of 50 children

TRIBUTES have been paid to an ‘extraordinary’ Beragh woman who fostered more than 50 young people over three decades.
Bernie Donnelly, pictured, who died on Saturday following an illness, said she decided to become a foster carer because she “wanted to give kids a chance in life.”
Aged in her mid-60s and originally from Killyclogher, Mrs Donnelly had been honoured by both the Western Trust and Fermanagh and Omagh District Council for her dedication to fostering.
In a poignant farewell at the Funeral Mass on Tuesday, Mrs Donnelly’s grand-daughter, Aoife Mullan, told mourners that her grandmother was an “amazing woman” who loved each of the children that she had cared for with her husband Martin over the years.
“She enriched the lives of so many young people through her fostering.
“Over 50 children and young adults got the benefit of what an amazing person she was,” Ms Mullan said.
“To these children and young adults, she was in the words of Robert Mizell, their Mamma Courtney and loved each one of them. She was a strong and resilient woman with so much to give.
“Her unbelievable strength inspired us, her grandchildren and children to love live and live life. She smiled despite all the challenges that she faced over the years.”
Pat Armstrong, head of fostering and adoption with the Western Trust, said that its Fostering Service had lost a “dedicated, committed and extraordinary foster carer.”
“Over a number of years, Bernie provided care for children who were in need of a caring and loving home. Bernie built lasting relationships from childhood to adulthood. She was a selfless individual who gave her all to brighten up a child’s world,” he said.
“She will be sorely missed by my staff and the other foster carers who knew. Most of all, her loss will be felt greater by the children who knew her. On behalf of the Trust, l extend my sincere condolences to Bernie’s family and the children who benefited from her loving care.”
At her funeral, the parish priest of Beragh, Monsignor Colum Curry, said that Mrs Donnelly and her husband, Martin, had been renowned for their vocation as foster-parents.
“I use the word vocation very deliberately because few people could do what they have done. Over the years they have fostered 53 children – that is amazing,” he said.
“For a woman to open the door of her house for total strangers, to make a place for them at her table, give them access to her home and treat them as one of her own family with all the responsibilities of nurturing and guiding them as well as providing the necessary boundaries for their wellbeing was undoubtedly a huge undertaking and a mighty challenge.
“Such as Bernie’s vocation and she did it with distinction. We can only imagine how the lives of those young people have been transformed by her kindness and her love.”
In 2012, Bernie Donnelly had spoken of how she had been motivated to become a foster carer by an advertisement in the UH and that her motivation had been to “give kids a chance in life.”
“I remember well the first child who came to stay. It was very challenging and everyone cared a lot about her and she really did become a part of the family. From that positive experience, we wanted to continue and give other kids a chance in life,” she said at that time.
Bernie Donnelly is survived by her husband, Martin, children, Barry Sheena (Mullan) and Fergal, grandchildren Aoife, Finbar, Grainne, Caher, Faolan and Aoibheann.

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