MacSharry in cancer plea at emotional farewell to wife
Former EU Commissioner Ray MacSharry paid a moving tribute to the woman he described as "the wind beneath his wings", at the funeral of his late wife Elaine yesterday.
And the former government minister made a passionate plea for the retention of cancer services at Sligo General Hospital, where his wife had received such "care and support and attention" during her illness.
Cancer services at the hospital are set to be scaled down as part of the government plan to develop eight centres of excellence.
"We could not, and she could not, say enough for the care and support and attention she was given in our hospital. We have our centre of excellence here in Sligo as far as we are concerned, and please God, Elaine will help it stay there," said Mr MacSharry.
President Mary McAleese was represented by Captain Lorraine Fahy.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Tanaiste Brian Cowen, Government ministers, Mary Coughlan and Noel Dempsey, ministers of state, Jimmy Devins and Brendan Smith, and former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, were among the Fianna Fail representatives who joined over 2,000 mourners in Sligo Cathedral for the Requiem Mass.
Also present were former EU commissioners Padraig Flynn and Michael O'Kennedy, beef baron Larry Goodman and a large number of TDs, senators and local representatives.
Mayor of Sligo, Jonathan McGoldrick, and chairperson of Sligo County Council, Seamus Kilgannon, led the local dignitaries.
Elaine MacSharry (67), nee Neilan, died earlier this week following a seven-month battle with cancer.
Leading the mourners were her husband, Ray, sons Raymond, Brian and Marc, and daughters Heather-Ann, Helen, and Lisa, and 13 grandchildren.
Fighting back tears, her husband of 48 years said that her first words after the diagnosis had been: "It's unlikely we will make the 50th".
"Nevertheless, every one of the days we did have were great days. There were good days and tough days, but they were all great days," he said.
As well as being mother to six children, she worked closely with her husband and was always a great people person and diplomat whether locally, nationally or internationally, he said.
"She was not my other half. I tried to be her other half. Wherever she was, she was a beacon of love with a heart of gold," he said.
Her daughter, Heather Ann, said her mother's love and inspiration had been the platform on which they had built their lives.
"She has left us the fantastic legacy of each other and all of our families, and we will continue to look after Dad as well as she did for the last 47 years," she said.
In his homily, Father Niall Ahern said that despite various illnesses in her life, Elaine had never lost her sense of fun and was always last to leave a party.
"Ray will say, in all his undertakings, either national or international, she was the wind beneath his wings," he added.