Wednesday 21 March 2018

Sad goodbye to UN worker 'who laid down his life for betterment of Haiti'

Anita Guidera

THE only Irish victim of the earthquake in Haiti was a "bulldozer of love" who laid down his life for the people he tried to help, mourners at his moving funeral heard.

The chaos and destruction of Port-au-Prince seemed a million miles away from the peaceful Cavan town of Belturbet as UN aid worker Andrew Grene was laid to rest yesterday.

The 44-year-old perished alongside at least 84 staff at the UN headquarters in Haiti three weeks ago.

After a traditional Irish wake in the family home at Derrycark, three kilometres outside the town, the father of three was buried alongside his own late father, Professor David Grene, in Annagh Parish churchyard.

"Andrew Grene took the kindness and love that we grew up with in our hometown of Belturbet and brought it across the globe, to Africa, Asia and last to Haiti.

"He laid down his life as he laboured for the betterment of the Haitian people," his twin brother Gregory wrote for the service.

The brothers and their parents, who lived in Chicago, often spent up to six months of the year in their Cavan farmhouse, immersing themselves in rural Irish life.

On a bright but chilled winter's afternoon, a riderless black horse, with empty boots turned backwards in the stirrups to symbolise its fallen rider, was led at the head of the cortege as it made its way from the farm to the centre of the town.

Behind it walked his widow, Co Down native Jennifer; sons Alex (19) and Patrick (20); daughter Rosamund (14); mother Ethel; brother Gregory; half-brother Nicholas, a professor of English at Trinity College; and half-sister Ruth.

The silence was broken only by the sound of the horse's hooves and the church bells.

Outside the church, the UN flag which draped the white coffin was folded by retired Irish UN veterans Martin Morrissey and Tony Brady and handed to his tearful widow.

Paying tribute to what he called "a stunningly beautiful life", Reverend Steve Clark, the local rector, told a congregation of up to 300: "He was one of our own who has died in the most tragic of circumstances giving his life to others."

His twin announced the establishment of the Andrew Grene Foundation to help in the education of Haitian children in his memory.

Gregory said of his brother: "He gave his love to society at large, to his friends and anyone in need of help and profoundly and deeply to his family and loved ones."


Irish Independent

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