'We didn't know what issues or darkness were working inside him'
LIGHTS strung from lamppost to lamppost lit up the darkness as the hearse travelled down the main street.
But the hearse, coffin and mourners jarred with what would have otherwise been a perfect scene, just two days from Christmas.
A December chill, the streets decked out with Christmas lights, doors ready to welcome people home.
The doors of homes, businesses and pubs were all closed last night as Shane McEntee's coffin made its way from his home to the St John the Baptist Church in Nobber, Co Meath, for his removal service.
Mr McEntee tragically took his own life last Friday, and last night's service was told there is always light to illuminate the deepest darkness, no matter how bad things seem.
A crowd of between 800 and 1,000 people filled the church, with many more outside in the cold. Volunteers and gardai directed traffic, and cars were parked up as far as a mile from the church.
Some 500 people had been at the McEntee family home two hours before the service started, with signs on the approach road to Nobber directing traffic to the house. Even so, the hearse arrived at exactly seven o'clock, and the Junior Agriculture Minister's coffin was brought into the church to the choir singing 'Nearer My God To Thee'.
His wife Kathleen was supported by their children, with Mr McEntee's tearful mother Madge following behind.
A framed photograph of Mr McEntee and his family was placed on the coffin, and Nobber parish priest Fr Seamus Houlihan said nobody but God could say what led the popular 56-year-old to take his life.
"Shane died on the shortest day of the year," Fr Houlihan said. "The darkness had almost overcome the world, and God knows because he didn't know and neither did the rest of us what darkness or what issues were working inside him.
"All we can say is when Jesus said 'I am the light of the world', what he was doing was saying no matter how hard things are, no matter how bad things become, we must find (light) in the darkness."
Fr Houlihan said "every one of us feels the darkness" but we should never let it better us.
"Christ is always there with the light of his love," he added.
"We can only hope and pray that now Shane will be able to wrap his arms around each one he loves so much and says to each one of them: 'I haven't left you, I'm still with you, I'm still the light of your life.
"'You may not see me but you'll know I'm there because I love you too much to ever leave you while you are here.'"
Among the mourners were Social Protection Minister Joan Burton, Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, Health Minister Dr James Reilly, Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe, former ministers Dermot Ahern and Dr Rory O'Hanlon, MEPs Mairead McGuinness and Sean Kelly, as well as Dublin Lord Mayor Naoise O'Muiri.
Former Taoiseach John Bruton and his wife Finola also attended, as did numerous members of the Fine Gael parliamentary party, as well as Fine Gael officials and staff.
Labour TDs Emmet Stagg and Jack Wall were also there, as was former Attorney General John Rogers.
Independent TDs Mick Wallace, Maureen O'Sullivan and Catherine Murphy also attended. Taoiseach Enda Kenny was represented by his Aide de Camp Cmdt Michael Treacy. Mr Kenny will be attending the funeral this morning and paid a visit to the McEntee family home over the weekend.
The GAA was represented by its director general Paraic Duffy, and Kilkenny hurling manager Brian Cody was also present.