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Sunday 25 June 2017

Worlds of politics and media remember a 'gentleman' who was 'blind to status'

Anton Savage carries the coffin of his father Tom to his funeral Mass in St James’s Church, Grange, Co Louth. Photo:Mark Condren
Anton Savage carries the coffin of his father Tom to his funeral Mass in St James’s Church, Grange, Co Louth. Photo:Mark Condren
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

As chairman of RTÉ, Tom Savage would ring each person working over Christmas at the broadcaster to express his gratitude, mourners at his funeral heard.

The communications consultant - who played a pivotal role in the peace process due to his work as the spokesman and adviser to the late Taoiseach Albert Reynolds - was remembered as a man who was "blind to status" and who would give away his money as quickly as he came by it.

He was "essentially the hero" of every one of his wife Terry Prone's many novels, their son Anton said in a moving tribute.

The Communications Clinic founder passed away peacefully at home in Portrane, Co Dublin, at the age of 76 last Thursday night. He had been suffering from cancer.

He is survived by his wife Terry, with whom he worked side by side for over 40 years, by their only child Anton, Anton's wife Cathy and their baby daughter Anna.

The picturesque country church at Grange in the Cooley peninsula, Co Louth, was where Mr Savage was baptised, and also where he said his first Mass in his days as a Catholic priest.

Tom Savage. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Tom Savage. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Read more: Anton Savage pays moving tribute to 'generous and kind, courageous and loyal' father Tom

It was packed to standing yesterday, with many from Irish public life whose lives he had touched.

President Michael D Higgins was represented by his Aide de Campe Commandant Louise Conlon; Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald was present, along with Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan.

Enda Kenny's wife Fionnuala was present, as was Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, Health Minister Simon Harris, Children's Minister Katherine Zappone, Deputy Kevin Boxer Moran, Deputy Timmy Dooley and Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin.

RTÉ’s Tommie Gorman with Cardinal Sean Brady
RTÉ’s Tommie Gorman with Cardinal Sean Brady

Former health minister Dr James Reilly, former minister of state Martin Mansergh and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan were also there.

Novelist Cathy Kelly, Gavin Duffy from 'Dragons' Den' and Fergus Finlay of Barnardos were also amongst the mourners who came to express solidarity with the family. Padraig Flynn, the former minister and EU commissioner, was in attendance.

Amongst those from the media were broadcasters Vincent Browne of TV3, Ian Dempsey and Matt Cooper of Today FM, RTÉ's Tommie Gorman and Joe Little, TV3's Ursula Halligan, 'Sunday Independent' editor Cormac Bourke and INM Group Business Editor Dearbhail McDonald.

Cardinal Sean Brady, who was a lifelong friend of Mr Savage, was chief celebrant at the Mass, telling how they first met as classmates at Maynooth in 1959. He described him as a "lovely guy, a gentleman who gave wise advice".

Ian Dempsey at the funeral mass of Tom Savage. Photo: Mark Condren
Ian Dempsey at the funeral mass of Tom Savage. Photo: Mark Condren

And when he had felt the calling as a layman, he left the priesthood but continued to help people communicate their message, Cardinal Brady said. Tom epitomised courage, he added.

He revealed that they had last spoke at the baptism of his granddaughter Anna when he'd had "the voice of a sick man" - but he had noted a "definite note of contentment", he said.

Cardinal Brady said he had displayed power, love and self-control right to the end.

Even in the face of illness, Tom had been calm, positive, alert and as courteous as ever, he added.

Prayers were said for the medical teams at St Vincent's and Beaumont hospitals, as well as Dublin Fire Brigade.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin at the funeral mass of Tom Savage. Photo: Mark Condren
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin at the funeral mass of Tom Savage. Photo: Mark Condren

A prayer was also said for "Tom's little sweetheart" Anna, who "illuminated his life in his last few days".

There was laughter in the church as Anton Savage quipped of his position in "having to give his father's eulogy with his dad's guide to giving a eulogy in his head".

He spoke of his father's many achievements - from marching for civil rights in the North, to setting up successful companies and serving as adviser to Taoiseach Albert Reynolds and playing a pivotal role in the peace process, talking to paramilitaries on both sides.

Terry Prone at the funeral mass of her husband Tom Savage. Photo: Mark Condren
Terry Prone at the funeral mass of her husband Tom Savage. Photo: Mark Condren

But the number one thing in his father's life was football, he said to much amusement from the congregation.

He spoke of his father's generosity and his unique combination of gentleness and forcefulness.

"If you read all Terry's books, and it would take you some time because they are considerable, regardless of age or background, all of her heroes are essentially Tom," Anton said.

Author Cathy Kelly at the funeral mass of Tom Savage. Photo: Mark Condren
Author Cathy Kelly at the funeral mass of Tom Savage. Photo: Mark Condren

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