Huge turnout for Justice Kevin Feeney funeral in Dublin

The passions of Justice Kevin Feeney’s life “were family, friendship, work and sport”


The four passions of Justice Kevin Feeney’s life “were family, friendship, work and sport,” recalled President of the High Court Justice Nicholas Kearns in a tribute today.

He was speaking at the end of the funeral Mass for Justice Feeney at the Sacred Heart Church, Donnybrook, Dublin this morning. Justice Feeney (61), who was appointed to the High Court in 2006, died suddenly last Tuesday in Ballycotton Co Cork.

“We’re all still in a state of disbelief at his sudden death,” Justice Kearns continued. Family “always remained extremely close...he was devastated when (his brother) John died so tragically (in a 1984 plane crash at Eastbourne in England).”

He recalled that Kevin Feeney exhibited a sense of justice at an early age. His brother Jim was 16 and Kevin 8 when Jim got a bicycle. “He protested with a placard outside his father’s study which read ‘No Bicycle. No Justice’.”

His had been “a wonderful married life, blessed with four children, who have really been consoling us over the past few days.” Among his “law family” he enjoyed “great professional success “ His “courtroom advocacy skills were superb” and when appointed to the High Court “he took over a difficult case list. He never complained about being overworked or under-resourced.”

As a lover of sport he was “for many years a member of the Phoenix Cricket Club” where “he defended the wicket like the Spartans at Thermopylae.”

To much laughter Justice Kearns then recalled a golfing trip to Scotland Kevin Feeney organised for colleagues on the bench as part of an outing for the judciary in these islands. The van he hired was so small it resulted in one eminent Irish judge sitting on another’s knee while a third ended up with the golf clubs in the boot. “He is an immense loss to us all,” he said. “All feel we have lost a great friend.”

Jim McArdle recalled “we were best man for each other and probably best friends for 45 years,” and did what he felt Justice Feeney would have done for him were roles reversed.

He read Shakespeare’s sonnet When to Sessions of Sweet Silent Thought, emphasising those last lines “which are particularly poignant.” They were “But if the while I think on thee, dear friend, All losses are restored and sorrows end.” He felt “nothing but incredible sadness at this moment.”

Andrew Feeney, son of the deceased, thanked all who attended and commented that, though his father “was fiercely competitive in the court room” he “didn’t like the public spotlight. He was a very, very private man” who put “family and friends first.” One of his own great memories was attending the Italia 90 Ireland-Italy game with his father.

“We feel he went out on a high,” he said, “as he was at his happiest in Ballycotton. I am so proud to have had him as a father.”

In his homily Mass celebrant Fr Charlie Davy SJ, brother of Justice Feeney’s wife Geraldine, recalled the Hilaire Belloc poem Courtesy. “Of Courtesy, it is much less/Than Courage of Heart or Holiness,/Yet in my Walks it seems to me/

That the Grace of God is in Courtesy./”

He said “the spirit of God is wherever there is goodness and honesty. That is what Kevin tried to live,” he said. He recalled how “over the last few days Geraldine has repeated so often ‘I’m so grateful Kevin chose me for his wife. But I can’t help thinking that God chose her for Kevin,” he said. “Kevin” he said, “was not a holy man in the traditional sense yet I found the spirit of God steadily and stealthily at work in him.”

Chief mourners were Geraldine Feeney and their children Andrew, Peter, Kevin Barbara, and Justice Feeney’s brothers Jim and Peter. The President was represented by Cmdt James Galvin andthe Taoiseach by Cmdt Mick Treacy. Government Ministers present included Frances Fitzgerald and Alex White.

A large contingent from the judiciary was led by Chief Justice Susan Denham, and former Chief Justice John Murray Other members of the Supreme Court there included Justices Adrian Hardiman, Frank Clarke, John MacMenamin, as well as Gerard Hogan and George Birmingham of the High Court, Katherine Delahunt and Alison Lindsay of the Circuit Court. Retired judges included Ronan Keane, Hugh O’Flaherty, Tom Finlay, Yvonne Murphy. Also there was NUI Chancellor Maurice Manning.

There too were former Attorneys General Peter Sutherland, Michael McDowell and John Rogers, as well as many from the Law Library, including senior counsel Garret Cooney, John O’Donnell, Eoin McCullagh, Conor Maguire, and David Andrews. Journalists there, present and former, included Mairead Ní Nuadhain, John O’Shea, Stephen O’Byrnes, Mike Burns, Ed Mulhall, Sam Smyth, Betty Purcell, Michael Fisher, Bride Rosney Joe Little and Liz O’Donnell.