The Garda Commissioner has confirmed that a criminal investigation is under way into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of two children in a car fire in Co Westmeath last Friday.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said the deaths were being treated as suspicious.

A memorial has been set up outside St Cremin's National School to remember the two children, two-year-old Mikey Dennany and five-year-old Thelma Dennany, who died in the car fire last Friday.

A memorial has been set up to remember Mikey and Thelma Dennany

Framed photographs of the two children were placed on a table along with teddies, candles and flowers at the school.

The children's mother Lynn Egar remains in hospital after she was pulled from the burning car by a passer-by at around 4pm on Friday evening.

The bodies of the two children were returned to the family after the process of formal identification concluded, and funeral arrangements are expected in the coming days.

A silence fell this morning as family, friends, pupils and parents made their way from the local pre-school to St Cremin's National School where Thelma was in senior infants.

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A short service was held at the school where prayers were offered for the children's mother at what Fr Conor Magee said was "this most difficult time".

Earlier, Principal of St Cremin's National School Karl Dermody said the school community had been devastated by the loss.

He described Thelma as warm, happy and vibrant.

The school said its priority is to ensure that the needs of pupils and their families are met at this challenging time.

Fr John O'Brien of Multyfarnham Franciscan Abbey said there is an overwhelming feeling of sadness and disbelief in the community.

There is a sense of "unreality", Fr O'Brien said, "like a cloud coming down on us as we face the terrible tragedy".

Toys left at the scene over the weekend

It is going to be hard on the teachers and "very hard on the little ones" to face this grief and loss, he said.

Psychologists from the National Educational Psychological Service were in the school today to support pupils.

The school has asked that its privacy, and that of Thelma and Mikey's family, are respected at this time.

The staff and children at the Children of Lir pre-school in Multyfarnham expressed their "sincere sympathy to the family at the tragic loss of Thelma and Michael".

The pre-school said Thelma had attended their ECCE scheme and they described her as a "beautiful, happy and fun-loving little girl" who will be sadly missed by everyone.

"We will miss her dearly" the statement said.

Last night, around 500 people turned out for a vigil in Multyfarnham.

Commissioner Harris said investigating officers were keen to view any dash-cam footage captured by passing motorists on Friday and also keen to speak to any other members of the public who may have information that could assist the inquiry.

Gardaí have appealed for anyone who was in the Lacken, Multyfarnham area between 2pm and 4pm on Friday to contact them.

Anyone with information can contact Mullingar Garda Station on 044-9384000, the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111 or any garda station.

Additional reporting Pat McGrath