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Kenny devastated as mother Eithne (93) is laid to rest

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny was aboard a navy vessel off the coast of Wexford when he received the devastating news that his beloved mother had passed away.

Eithne Kenny was laid to rest today as thousands of mourners filled the streets of Castlebar, Co Mayo, to pay their respects to the 93-year-old and her family.

A heartbroken Enda Kenny was travelling on the LE Roisin vessel on Saturday morning when his wife Fionnuala phoned him just after 8am to break the news.

Mr Kenny said that "fate" must have had something to do with the fact he was sailing just north off the Tuskar Rock when his mother passed away.

Ironically, Mrs Kenny had a "great affection" for the sea. Her father even served on the Tuskar during World War I.

Just hours after hearing the news, a clearly emotional Mr Kenny pressed ahead with a speech a Fine Gael dinner at Dublin's Burlington Hotel.

He told the 1,200 attendees of the moment he learned his mother's "spirit" had "gone off into eternity".

"Funny thing, my mother -- her father was a lightkeeper 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 said, 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".

Mrs Kenny -- a former home economics teacher -- died peacefully at Mayo General Hospital surrounded by family members.

She was one of the first people Mr Kenny visited after becoming Taoiseach in March.

Her funeral mass was held today at The Church of the Holy Rosary before she was finally laid to rest in Islandeady Cemetery.

Tributes have poured in from the world of politics and beyond. President Michael D Higgins, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore and Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin all paid their sympathies to Mr Kenny and his four siblings.

The British Irish Council Summit was postponed today as a remark of respect.

Archbishop of Tuam Michael Neary described the popular woman as a "dignified and gracious lady".

"Eithne was a very private person -- a woman of deep faith, devoted to her family and enabling them to make significant contributions to our country in so many ways."