Thousands attend funeral of 'gentleman, patriot' Minister of State Shane McEntee
The service reflected a multi- layered tragedy with ripples far beyond the beautiful green pastures of Nobber
Under a watery winter sun on Christmas Eve the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, stood by the open grave of Shane McEntee in Nobber cemetery and, in a voice thickening with emotion, tried to summon up the spirit of “this best of men, this truest of friends . . . gentleman, patriot, the quintessential Meath man, mad for his family, for his people, for his county, for his football and for his politics”.
In one of the day’s many insights into the fierce and gentle core of the former hardy corner-back and Minister of State who took his own life last Friday, the Taoiseach remembered the tears in the Meath man’s eyes as they sat listening to the stories of people whose homes had been damaged by pyrite.
Shane McEntee, he said, was “a giver, a doer . . . He didn’t just listen to people’s problems, he made them his own.”
It was a recurring theme during a profoundly sombre 2½-hour Mass and burial service, in which the distress of his daughters Helen and Sally at the graveside, and the stricken faces of young men in dark suits and black ties reflected a multilayered tragedy with ripples far beyond the beautiful green pastures of Nobber.
The presence of President Michael D Higgins, the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste and a host of Cabinet Ministers, TDs and public figures, along with the small, precision-drilled bearer party made up of military police from 2 Brigade, rendered due respect to a Government Minister.
In the church of St John the Baptist, lit by Advent candles and a leafy Nativity crib, the singer, Mary Duff, and the homilist, Fr Michael Sheerin, came from neighbouring Lobinstown. In a guard of honour from the church, stretching down the hill to the cemetery, GAA stalwarts from clubs such as Castletown, Syddan and Moynalty took one side, and farmers of the IFA the other.
As Sally kissed her father’s smiling image through the glass frame, the message etched on the tombstone over the open grave beside her told poignantly of the long and fulfilled life of Shane McEntee’s father, Tony, buried there last year: “Blessed be those with a cheery smile . . .”
The heartfelt injunctions now, by contrast, were to look out for each other.
Enda Kenny said Shane’s death challenged us to remember that “those who give vent to a constant and mutilating criticism have a responsibility in the presentation of a compassionate, caring Ireland that so many people wish to see”.