Friday 20 October 2017

Mourners pay respects to Whitaker - the 'civil servant who did his best'

The coffin is carried from the Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook. Photo: Damien Eagers
The coffin is carried from the Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook. Photo: Damien Eagers
Allison Bray

Allison Bray

More than 1,000 mourners gathered yesterday for the funeral of respected civil servant TK Whitaker, who passed away at the age of 100.

President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina joined the huge crowds in Donnybrook, Dublin 4, to say farewell to the man who helped mastermind Ireland's economic development.

A host of dignitaries, including former president Mary McAleese, her husband Martin, Finance Minister Michael Noonan, former Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin packed the Church of the Sacred Heart for the Requiem Mass for the former secretary of the Department of Finance.

His friend of more than 30 years, Fr Lomán Mac Aodha, who delivered the homily in both English and Irish, said Mr Whitaker - or Ken as he was known to friends and family - was widely regarded as one of the chief architects of Ireland's modern economy.

Humble

But he was also a very humble and spiritual man, he said. In the words of the economist himself, he was "a civil servant who did his best".

Michael Noonan, left, Minister for Finance and Pat Breen, Minister for employment, were in attendance. Photo: Damien Eagers
Michael Noonan, left, Minister for Finance and Pat Breen, Minister for employment, were in attendance. Photo: Damien Eagers

He passed away on Monday, a month after celebrating his 100th birthday.

The funeral was told that Mr Whitaker was also a humble man of deep faith who celebrated Mass every day at 7.30am at the same church that was packed to capacity with his many friends for his funeral.

"We've come to honour a great man," Fr Mac Aodha said. Despite suffering numerous losses of loved ones over the years, Mr Whitaker "was a man of deepest thanksgiving", Fr Mac Aodha said of the native of Rostrevor, Co Down.

He tragically lost his first and second wives Nora and Mary, his daughter Catherine, son Gerald, sister Peggie and daughter-in-law Priscila.

President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina arrive at the Church of the Sacred Heart. Photo: Damien Eagers
President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina arrive at the Church of the Sacred Heart. Photo: Damien Eagers

"Right up to the end he believed there was more to life. He had a joie de vivre despite everything," Fr Mac Aodha said.

"He had a deep-seated relationship with the provider of life. It was truly a fulfilled life."

Fr Mac Aodha told of his friend's "mischievous and impish grin" and hopefulness that he attained through his devotion to God.

He also recalled how at the age of 80, Mr Whitaker told him: "I thank God for so far giving me an interesting, happy and fulfilling life and I look forward to it continuing that way a bit longer."

John Bowman offers his condolences to Ken Whitaker. Photo: Damien Eagers
John Bowman offers his condolences to Ken Whitaker. Photo: Damien Eagers

Mr Whitaker's son Ken Whitaker Jr also paid tribute to his father as a man who was much loved by his family, including his six children, 27 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.

"This is indeed a sad day for us and his family, friends and few remaining colleagues," he said. "But today we should look at the brighter side and his long life and all he did for his family and his country."

TK Whitaker
TK Whitaker

Irish Independent

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