| 1.4°C Dublin

Family and friends bid fond farewell to political icon

DESCRIBED as a farmer, scientist, thinker and teacher, former Labour minister Justin Keating was laid to rest near his home in Co Kildare yesterday.

Politicians, family members and friends were among the hundreds who attended the humanist commemoration at his home in Bishopland, near Ballymore Eustace.

His children and grandchildren spoke movingly about the man they wished to remember as a friend and teacher as much as a politician and scientist.

Mr Keating died suddenly but peacefully at his home on New Year's Eve and was buried just one day shy of his 80th birthday.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore -- who attended yesterday's service along with former leaders Pat Rabbitte and Ruairi Quinn -- described Mr Keating as one of the "new wave" of Labour TDs when he was first elected to the Dail for Dublin West in 1969.

He served as industry and commerce minister in Liam Cosgrave's Fine Gael/Labour coalition, but lost his Dail seat in 1977.

Former Taoisigh Liam Cosgrave and Garret FitzGerald sat inside Mr Keating's home as tributes were paid and memories of his life shared among the gathering.

The Taoiseach and the President were represented by their aides de camp, while Finance Minister Brian Lenihan also braved the cold to represent the Government.

Other political colleagues included Labour TDs Michael D Higgins, Liz McManus and Tommy Broughan, Seanad Chairman Pat Moylan, and Labour senator Alex White.

Former Labour TD Brendan Halligan also attended along with former Labour general secretary Seamus Scally and Mr Keating's economic advisory in government, William Scally.

Mr Keating's wife Barbara spoke of a loving man who was passionate about the environment and ecology, pointing to the cardboard coffin requested by her late husband.


Mr Keating was a lecturer in anatomy at UCD's veterinary college and was senior lecturer at Trinity College. He also served as RTE's head of agricultural programmes for two years.

The son of artist Sean Keating, he served as president of the Humanist Association of Ireland until his death.

Friend and fellow humanist Catherine O'Brien said Justin's frail appearance belied his intellectual capacity and leadership qualities that lay within.

And in series of moving and emotional tributes drawn from his grandchildren's earliest memories, Danielle, Jonah, Jonathan and Sean recalled a man fascinated by science, knowledge and teaching.

At the nearby cemetery in Eadestown -- the birthplace of his mother May -- mourners gathered around the snow- covered graveside to hear Mr Quinn say farewell to one of the Labour Party's great icons.

"Justin educated an entire generation of the Labour Party of all ages; about the gap between reality and reason on the one hand, and hope and hearsay on the other," he said.

"I have never in my life encountered a man who persuaded so much, through the power of reason, to look at what a group were doing and to see why they were doing it; to confront the reality of numbers, the reality of the possibilities and to change and accept and to move forward. That was Justin Keating," Mr Quinn said.

Irish Independent