Longford meets Dublin 4 in remembering Albert Reynolds

People paid their respects to the late former taoiseach at Donnybrook church

Mon, Aug 25, 2014, 09:06

At nearly 10pm on Saturday night, the queue to sympathise with an exhausted Kathleen Reynolds and her family was still moving slowly up the aisle of Donnybrook church.

The public element of the family’s day had begun more than nine hours earlier, when they accompanied the open coffin of the devoted husband, father and former taoiseach, at the Mansion House.

But even amid the pomp, solemnity and tight protocol of a State funeral, they remained faithful to the old country tradition of the bereaved remaining seated to shake hands and share whispered, wistful memories with old friends.

Michael McCrann, a family friend from Albert’s home place of Rooskey, noted the huge Longford contingent that had come to Dublin 4, amid the judges and lawyers, politicians, accountants, racing figures, business people, trade unionists and senior civil servants.

“Even though it isn’t a country funeral, it has all the ingredients of one,” said Derry O’Donovan, retired agri banker and contributor to Fianna Fáil’s infamous 1977 election manifesto – “just the agricultural element”, he stressed.

Town and country

Clearly, some thought had gone into reflecting both Albert’s midlands roots and his D4 years. It was noted that the young tenor soloist, Emmet Cahill, was from the Mullingar area and that undertaking duties were shared between Fanagans, the Dublin-based undertakers, and Mullingar’s Con Gilsenan.

It was a deeply solemn service, preceded by sweet, traditional laments on violin and piano as a stream of old faces from another era took their places in the top left-hand pews marked “Government”.

John Bruton was the first of the three former taoisigh to arrive, with his wife, Finola, followed by Brian and Mary Cowen, and Bertie Ahern, in a black corduroy jacket. “Oh can you believe it? Eoghan Fitzsimons,” murmured an old Reynolds stalwart in a none-too-kindly tone, reflecting residual resentment towards the lawyer who served as attorney general around the events that brought down the FF-Labour coalition and Albert Reynolds with it. At times like these, 20 years is only a few minutes ago.

Meanwhile, a whole political era drifted past in the form of Charlie McCreevy, Michael Smith, Pat Carey, Joe Jacob, Frank Fahey, Gerry Brady, Michael O’Kennedy, Johnny Brady, John Ellis, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn and Michael Woods as Donie Cassidy ticked off the names and reminisced.

Dancing

Albert died on the same day as singer Jim “Put Your Sweet Lips” Reeves was born 90 years ago, he said portentously.