Notorious 'Border Fox' kidnapper delivers eulogy at funeral of slain crime godfather

'BORDER Fox' Dessie O'Hare paid a glowing tribute to slain crime godfather Eamon Kelly at his funeral, hailing him as a "martyr" of Irish Republicanism.

Dozens of figures from the criminal underworld turned out to pay their last respects to the 65-year-old convicted cocaine smuggler – shot dead by the Real IRA last week.

A lone piper accompanied the remains of the father of nine as they were taken from his home on Furry Park Road to St Brigid's church in Dublin's Killester.

Floral tributes spelt out the word "grandad" and another depicted the tricolour in green, white and gold flowers.

The coffin was ornate and elaborately carved with scenes of the Last Supper.

The chief mourners were Kelly's five surviving sons and two daughters. His wife, Ann – described yesterday as his "best friend" – died of cancer last year. His son, Robert, and daughter, Jennifer, also predeceased him.

There were several of his grandchildren in attendance, who offered prayers of the faithful and brought gifts to the altar.

Kelly is believed to have been shot dead in retaliation for the murder of Real IRA faction leader Alan Ryan last September.

Gardai maintained a low-key presence at the funeral, with two gardai patrolling the street outside and a garda van parked nearby.

One man has already been charged with Kelly's murder.

Six others were arrested at the weekend and questioned about the shooting. Files are now being prepared by investigating gardai for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

In a eulogy especially requested by the family, former INLA leader Dessie O'Hare paid tribute to the fallen criminal as a "kind, courageous and loyal comrade" who had done much "work for others", especially for prisoners.

His death was part of the "terrible beauty" of the struggle for freedom, he said, commenting that "British colonial wrong" had left a "stinking legacy of servitude" in Ireland.

"Eamon's life was dedicated to achieving the same goal of freedom and peace."

He remarked that Kelly had seen his fair share of suffering over the years, finishing his eulogy with the words: "Father forgive them for they know not what they do."

Kelly had been a close friend of O'Hare and the pair regularly drank together.

O'Hare is one of Ireland's most feared crime figures and was also friendly with gang boss Martin 'Marlo' Hyland, who was shot dead in 2006.

Kelly and O'Hare first struck up a friendship while each served lengthy sentences in Portlaoise prison.

O'Hare was released from prison in April 2006 after serving 19 years for kidnapping Dublin dentist John O'Grady and has lived in Dublin since then.

He was released under the Good Friday Agreement after being given a 40-year sentence for kidnapping and mutilating Mr O'Grady in 1987.

Monsignor Alex Stenson described Kelly's shooting as a "dreadful and evil deed".

"He was brutally murdered and nothing justified that," he said.

He told the congregation that much of what is reported in the newspapers was "untrue".

"We are all sinners", he said, commenting that it was "easy to point the finger at others when we should be looking at ourselves". He described Kelly as a generous and kind man who was a good father, "loved a little flutter" on the horses and who was a swift walker, often taking his beloved dog Billy along. He noted that Billy had been with him at the time of his shooting.

Meanwhile, Kelly was lovingly recalled by his son Paul as "everything you could ask for in a dad".

He was famous for his juice-making, prescribing a mixture of carrot and broccoli juice for pregnant women.

"Needless to say there was a lot of carrot and broccoli juice in our family," he said, prompting laughter from the congregation.

He said his father had loved the craic with his pals. "He had very little but he would give you half of his money," he said.

He thanked the paramedics and gardai for their rapid response to the scene of his father's shooting.

The family's only consolation was that their father has now been reunited with Ann, his "best friend", Paul added.

To a lament from the lone piper, the remains were taken from church, with O'Hare helping to carry the coffin aloft, for cremation at Glasnevin.