She was a beautiful girl, a beauty queen described by a childhood friend as “elegant.” Earlier this week, Michaela Harte, 28, daughter of popular Tyrone Gaelic football coach Mickey Harte, was murdered in her hotel room in a resort on the Indian Ocean nation of Mauritius where she was honeymooning.
On Sunday, friends and family members from her hometown of Ballygawley, County Tyrone, members of the Philadelphia Gaelic Athletic Association and the Philadelphia Rose of Tralee organization will mourn her death at a mass at the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. Father John McNamee, the poet-priest who is pastor emeritus of St. Malachy’s Parish in North Philadelphia, will celebrate the Mass which starts at 6 PM.
Ciara McGorman, a childhood friend who grew up with the Hartes in the small Northern Irish village near the Donegal border, has been helping to organize the memorial.
“We grew up in the same parish and I knew her and her brothers,” says McGorman, former manager of the Sligo Pub in Media and resident of Drexel Hill. “Her father Mickey was involved in everything before he became a manager. He had a shop locally, ran the youth club—he was part of everybody’s life. They’re a very close family, religious people with a great faith, and this is the only thing we can for them. It’s a heart-rending story and everyone wants to help.”
On December 30, Michaela Harte married John McAreavey, 30, a Down senior footballer. Bishop of Dromore, John McAreavy, officiated at the wedding of his nephew. Her husband of two weeks found the young woman’s body face up in a bathtub full of water. “She was a gift from God and I now have an angel,” he said in a statement. Three employees of the resort have been arrested for her murder. Published reports say that evidence, including skin tissue taken from beneath her nails, indicate that Michaela Harte interrupted the men as they were burglarizing her room and fought back. Death was caused by asphyxiation.
“The saddest thing is when we heard she had died on her honeymoon we all assumed it was natural causes,” says McGorman. “No one had heard why or how. When we heard what happened. . .it was just heart-breaking.”
Harte, says McGorman, had represented Ulster in the Rose of Tralee pageant. She taught Irish and religion to students aged 11-18 at St. Patrick’s Academy in Dungannon in County Tyrone.
The last time she saw her neighbor and friend was about five years ago, when the Hartes came to the US for a football match-up in New York and traveled south to Philadelphia to see friends. “I hadn’t been home in five years at that time so it was so good to see her again,” says McGorman who, with other members of the Philadelphia Tyrone community, is planning the music and readings for Sunday night’s Mass.
After the service, participants are invited to Con Murphy’s Pub, across the street from the Cathedral at 1700 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, for tea and sandwiches.