Wednesday 19 September 2018

Tributes as Hayes bridges the divide - even in death

The coffin of former public servant Dr Maurice Hayes is carried from St Patrick's Church, Downpatrick, Co Down following his death aged 90, two days before Christmas. Photo: PA
The coffin of former public servant Dr Maurice Hayes is carried from St Patrick's Church, Downpatrick, Co Down following his death aged 90, two days before Christmas. Photo: PA

Allan Preston

Hundreds of mourners gathered at two churches - one Catholic, the other Protestant - to salute renowned former senator and prominent GAA figure Dr Maurice Hayes.

Those attending his funeral service at St Patrick's Catholic Church, Downpatrick, Co Down included President Michael D Higgins.

Dr Hayes, who passed away on Saturday aged 90, is survived by his wife Joan and five children, Clodagh, Margaret, Dara, Garrett and Ronan.

A proud Down man from Killough, he was the first Catholic to be Northern Ireland ombudsman, but made the unusual request to be buried in the grounds of the Church of Ireland's Down Cathedral. Thought to be the burial site of St Patrick, he wanted his final resting place to be rooted in the history of the county where he lived his entire life.

For a man who dedicated his career to healing division, he also thought it fitting his funeral would not be confined to one side of the community.

Dr Hayes's remarkable career saw him work behind the scenes of the 1974 Sunningdale Agreement, and contribute to the Patten report - which oversaw the transition of the RUC to the PSNI.

Dr Maurice Hayes. Photo: Tom Burke
Dr Maurice Hayes. Photo: Tom Burke

His many accomplishments also saw him serving as an independent senator. He had also been a long-serving non-executive director of Independent News & Media.

As county secretary of the Down GAA team, his superb organisational skills helped the team win the All-Ireland championship in 1960, bringing the Sam Maguire cup across the Irish Border for the first time in history.

Players from that very team formed a guard of honour for his coffin following yesterday's funeral.

Representing Taoiseach Leo Varadkar yesterday was his aide de camp, Caroline Burke.

President Michael D Higgins attends the funeral of Dr Maurice Hayes at St Patrick's Church, Downpatrick, Co Down. Photo: PA
President Michael D Higgins attends the funeral of Dr Maurice Hayes at St Patrick's Church, Downpatrick, Co Down. Photo: PA

Len O'Hagan was also present, representing the board of INM.

Also in attendance was well-known cleric Fr Brian D'Arcy, journalist Eamonn Mallie and former Armagh GAA star Jarlath Burns.

His sons Dara and Ronan added to the emotional tributes, remembering a loving father.

"Most of us would be thrilled to have achieved just one of his many successes," said Dara.

Lady Sylvia Hermon attends the funeral of Dr Maurice Hayes at St Patrick's Church, Downpatrick, Co Down. Photo: PA
Lady Sylvia Hermon attends the funeral of Dr Maurice Hayes at St Patrick's Church, Downpatrick, Co Down. Photo: PA

"He wasn't fixated with flags or borders," he said.

"The nation state, he didn't consider a useful concept. He was a European, an Irishman, he was an Ulsterman. Most important of all he was a Co Down man."

Expressing his thanks that his father could be buried at Down Cathedral with a view of his beloved Mourne Mountains, he said his father's wish was that heaven could look something like Co Down.

"When we went to GAA matches I observed he treated everyone with the same level of respect, which he taught us to do as well," said Ronan.

Irish Independent

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