Old friends gather
CANON Jim Carroll looked around the vast expanse of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, but didn't even need time to ponder.
'There's a real sense of the gathering, of the meeting again, the telling of stories and the shaking of hands and a sense of gratitude that we can honour Michael and thank God for his life and times,' he told those gathered at Sunday evening's removal service.
And as one followed his beckoning, the faces were all there, Tanaiste and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore, Brendan Howlin, Michael D Higgins, Pat Rabbitte, Joan Burton, Drogheda's own Gerald Nash, Brendan Ryan, Tommy Broughan, Seamus Kirk, Brendan McGahon, a heavyweight of Bell's era, Fergus Finlay, Mick O'Reilly, former Irish secretary of the ATGWU, Pat McDaid, Director of Elections and Election Agent,1982 â?“ 2011, and many, many more.
Local and Louth councillors, past and present, also attended, but perhaps what would have pleased Michael most of all, old friends and people who gave him 'the number one' every time.
Sunday was also about occasion. The town flag adorning the borough council offices flew at half mast for the former mayor of the town. As his cortege arrived at the church members of the family proudly displayed the red flag, the Labour colours, the symbol of all he stood for.
And as his remains were received by Canon Carroll and Fr Martin Kenny, his coffin was draped in the tricolour, what greater honour could you ever ask for.
'Michael was a man of community, service and generosity and in that spirit too we remember his wife Betty. They were great buddies and I'm sure when they met again Betty was saying 'what kept you?', Canon Carroll stated.
In using the same words from scripture that began the service for Garret FitzGerald just hours earlier, he hoped that the family would find some solace from the support of the community.
'With Betty, Michael did so much for the area and oversaw a lot of the progress and perhaps it's no coincidence that we marked Garret FitzGerald's death as well. I'm sure they are up there forming a coalition in heaven'.
Colleagues from Michael's military days also attended, with stories told and shared of his FCA days. He was described as an 'outstanding rifle champion' and the the best marksman never to have won the All-Army title.
As well as serving his country in the Dail, he also saw Border duty in the late 70s. He left the FCA when gaining election in 1982.