Sunday 21 January 2018

Thousands attend funeral mass of Taoiseach’s mother Eithne Kenny (93) in Mayo

Enda Kenny with his
nephew Henry junior, and
his brother Henry, carry
the coffin at the removal
of his mother Eithne
Taoiseach, Enda Kenny with his nephew Henry junior, and his brother Henry, carry the coffin at the removal of his mother Eithne

THE funeral of the Taoiseach's mother Eithne Kenny took place in Castlebar today.

Thousands of sympathisers thronged the Church of the Holy Rosary to pay their respects to Mrs Kenny (93) who died at Mayo General Hospital on Saturday.

After the funeral mass she was buried in Islandeady Cemetery about 5km from Castlebar.

It was almost 10.30pm last night when Enda Kenny, along with his brothers John, Henry and Kieran and sister Marie and their families, left the funeral home after almost 8,000 people had filed through to pay their respects during the afternoon and evening. They walked behind the hearse to the town's church.

Among the mourners President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina, government Ministers and politicians from all sides.

Eithne Kenny had died at 9am on Saturday morning at the age of 93. She was born and grew up in Donegal, but she had spent most of her long and active life in Mayo after marrying Castlebar native Henry Kenny and becoming immersed in politics; she was a staunch supporter and indefatigable campaigner first for her husband who represented Mayo as a Fine Gael TD from 1954 until his untimely death in 1975, and then for her third son Enda who took over his seat at the age of 24.

And so it wasn't surprising that from early afternoon people from every corner of Co. Mayo queued up from early on a cold and damp afternoon to pay their respects to the family holding vigil in Coady's funeral home.

Just after 3pm, cars containing the Kenny family began to pull up on the street; a sombre Taoiseach arrived with his wife Fionnuala and children Aoibhinn, Ferdia and Naoise.

One of the first through the door just after 4pm was Enda's fellow Mayoman, junior minister Michael Ring, closely followed by Finance Minister Michael Noonan and MEP Sean Kelly. And another colleague who offered early condolences was the leas-ceann comhairle, Fianna Fail's Micheal Kitt, a long time family friend.

Also paying their respects was Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte and Environment Minister Phil Hogan, Health minister James Reilly, chief whip Paul Kehoe also junior ministers Fergus O'Dowd, Brian Hayes, Shane McEntee and MEP Colm Burke. Among the Fine Gael TDs were Patrick Donovan, Heather Humpreys, Peter Mathews, Billy Timmins, Dinny McGinley and James Bannon. Also senators Fidelma Healy-Eames and Labour's Lorraine Higgins and Fianna Fail's Dara Calleary and Eamon O'Cuiv.

As he left the funeral home, Phil Hogan paid tribute to Eithne Kenny. "I had the pleasure of meeting her once, and it's great that she lived long enough to see her son become leader of Fine Gael and then Taoiseach," he said.

And it had been an emotional roller-coaster of a weekend for her son Enda. He had received news of his mother's death early on Saturday morning while aboard the navy vessel the LE Roisin which was on a patrol from Cork to Dublin.

But instead of being able to return to Castlebar and grieve with his family, the Taoiseach had duties to fulfil. For Saturday night was supposed to be a huge celebration for the Fine Gael family, with 1,200 of the party faithful attending the President's Dinner in the Burlington Hotel. The Taoiseach was due to deliver what would surely have been a rousing speech, as it was the first time that the membership would have had to toast the success of the party at the general election last spring. Nobody would've blamed Enda if he had chosen to return to the West that day. But instead he kept his appointment.

And he put on his bravest of faces when he made his entrance into the packed ballroom, slowly working his way through a forest of outstretched hands. Enda took his time getting onto the stage, probably gathering his strength and composure. He told the Fine Gael family that "it's a night of celebration" but thoughts of his beloved mother Eithne rose. "For me myself and for my family this evening, it's also a celebration of a life long lived, one of devotion..." he paused, head bowed and voice chocked with emotion.

But later in the speech, he wanted to talk more about his mother. "I suppose I could say a word about herself who has left," he said. "Funny thing, my mother - her father was a light-keeper, in Donegal, right around the west coast, actually served on the Tuskar in World War I. And you know, fate plays its own coincidence in these things, I suppose -- I decided some time ago to go and visit the Navy," he added, explaining how he happened to be aboard the LE Roisin. "But being a woman who loved the sea, and had a great affection for the lifeboats, I suppose it was fitting that, shortly after eight this morning, I had a call from Fionnuala to tell me -- it was just north of the Tuskar Rock -- that her spirit had gone off into eternity".

As a tribute, it was both graceful and gutsy. But then yesterday the people of Mayo turned out in the bitterest of days in their thousands, standing in two-hour-long lines to pay their respects. "I've never seen a crowd like it," commented one government minister.

The Taoiseach did Herself proud.

Irish Independent

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