Tuesday 12 December 2017

Final farewell to the Dail for 'crusader' O'Connell

The remains of former Ceann Comhairle Dr John Francis O'Connell are carried by his grandchildren
The remains of former Ceann Comhairle Dr John Francis O'Connell are carried by his grandchildren
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

IT was one final trip to Leinster House for a former health minister and Ceann Comhairle remembered as a "man of many parts" and a "humanitarian who did great good in this world".

The Tricolour flew at half mast as a mark of respect and Dail ushers stood out in solemn remembrance as the remains of Dr John O'Connell (86) were driven past the Dail after his funeral, en route to Glasnevin Cemetery.

It was the first time in living memory that such an honour had been afforded.

President Michael D Higgins led mourners at the requiem Mass at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook, Dublin, while the Taoiseach was represented by his Aide-de-Camp Comdt Michael Treacy.

Several politicians were present, including Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, sitting TDs Eric Byrne, Timmy Dooley and Finian McGrath and former Fianna Fail TDs Charlie O'Connor and Ben Briscoe – a long-standing friend since sharing a ballot with Dr O'Connell in 1965.

Also present were media consultants Tom Savage and wife Terry Prone – who ran Dr O'Connell's successful campaign to be elected to the European Parliament.

The coffin was draped in the Tricolour with his "treasured Bible" resting on top. Dr O'Connell's grand- children played a pivotal role in the funeral Mass, celebrated by Fr Conor Harper with Fr Noel O'Meara.

In describing Dr O'Connell as a "man of many parts" and a "humanitarian who did great good", Fr Harper said he was a man of compassion who had cared for the poor and the weak.

The death of his beloved sister from TB at the age of 16 had had a lasting effect on him and had led him to being a man of action, the priest said. And despite his "human limitations", he had achieved greatness, Fr Harper added.

Dr O'Connell's daughters, Aoibhinn and Aisling, brought gifts to the altar including the 'Irish Medical Times' – of which Dr O'Connell was a founding member – and a copy of MIMS Ireland, which is a crucial reference guide to prescriptive medicines devised by him and now published worldwide.

His grandson Oliver brought up a copy of his family tree. Grand-daughter Laura brought his memoirs, 'Dr John, crusading doctor and politician'. In a moving tribute, grandson Garrett spoke of his grandfather's supreme drive and intellect which had taken him from his humble beginnings of tenement life in 1920s Dublin.

As a doctor in Dublin he had always put patient before profit and entered politics to "change things right now".

He had accepted the ministry of health position in 1992 because though the "chapels of power were never appealing to him" it was "an extension of the sacred Hippocratic Oath for him", Garrett said.

Irish Independent

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