Sean FitzPatrick funeral: a traditional send-off for a dearly loved family man

Miriam Lord: Death of poster villain of the crash was always going to generate interest beyond his grieving circle

It was a traditional funeral Mass for a dearly loved family man.

He seemed to have been very well got, judging by the size of the congregation inside and outside the old church. A typical sort of turnout: family, friends, sporting companions, work acquaintances, a fair few millionaires and at least two billionaires.

Sure, you know yourself.

There were also half a dozen press photographers and a television camera on the footpath across the narrow road opposite the gates and a handful of journalists loitering in the churchyard.


Not so typical.

But then, this was also the funeral of a man who bankrupted himself, his bank and beggared a nation. “Sean FitzPatrick was our Dad. And that is who I’m going to talk about today” was the opening line of the touching eulogy delivered from the altar by his daughter Sarah.

There was a tone of defiance in her fiercely loving tribute, as if she was countering all the words of condemnation and disgust spoken by strangers about her father after his key role in the collapse of the Irish economy.

Of course, there would be no talk of the cataclysmic day job. Sean was her Dad and “in our eyes” he was adored by his family as the best father ever, a unique and wonderful person and the finest man a friend could know.

But the passing of the poster villain of the economic crash was always going to generate interest beyond his grieving circle. The awful legacy of his days running Anglo-Irish as a greed springboard for profit obsessed business over-achievers is still with us.

Fewer billionaires

Who would come to mourn him?

It was a big funeral.

Denis O’Brien – who places a huge premium on loyalty – was always expected to show up for the friend he staunchly defended after his death. He walked along the road to the church in full view of the cameras.

DOB could have had his driver drop him at the gates, but that short, public walk was important.

And after the Mass, when massive Mercs and trophy SUVs waited nearby with engines idling, O’Brien strode through the crowd and past the photographers to his car which was parked in a laneway around the corner.

Some names of men from the Anglo-Irish days were helpfully provided by a business reporter who was able to identify the crombied clones as they beetled inside.

The congregation was strikingly and overwhelmingly male and mature. A lot of men who had the look of money about them – silver grey types with decent suits and expensively overcoated. Fedoras were favoured by a few. Others sported the 19th hole, golf casual look. There were a few crested club blazers and ties – rugby and golf.

Two mourners caused the biggest stir among the watching and somewhat bewildered media contingent.

Denis O’Brien, well, because he is Denis O’Brien. And David Drumm, the man who took over from Sean FitzPatrick at Anglo-Irish Bank and made a disgrace of himself in the explosive “we need the moolah” Anglo tapes recorded in the run up to the bank guarantee.

It’s over a decade ago now. “So is Drumm the only one of them who went to jail?” asked an onlooker. “The Drummer”, as awe-striken swashbuckling fellow bankers used to call him, arrived with two companions.

“Another day, another billion” he famously joked when the country was on course for oblivion and Anglo was losing a billion a day. His presence was a respectful signal to FitzPatrick that they still share fraternal “skin in the game”.

The hacks scanned the assembled mourners. Tailor Louis Copeland was spotted. Sean FitzPatrick was always a natty dresser. A couple of former Anglo executives were pointed out, along with businessman Leslie Buckley. A man stood outside with two magnificent and very well behaved red setters.

There was a brief frisson when somebody hissed: “Is that Charlie McCreevy over there at the wall talking to the woman with the purple hair?”

It wasn’t.

Covid masks over jowls didn’t help.

“Is he somebody?” “Was yer man at one of the tribunals?” “I know him from somewhere?” “Wouldn’t it be great if Bertie turned up?”

And so on.

Arching understatement

“Dad had a lot of professional highs and lows in his life” Sean’s daughter told the congregation with arching understatement.

“He was a man who had enormous mental strength. When we were down he would pick us up. He would constantly remind us that the road in life is long and winding. But the measure of a person is not their successes, but in fact, how they could find a way to move forward when they’re knocked down off the horse. In that regard, our Dad was a giant of a man.”

She said he loved people.

“He always wanted to help out in any way he could, and by God, he left a lasting impression on anybody he met.”

He left a lasting impression, alright.

Since his sudden death, there have been many articles arguing that Sean FitzPatrick was made a scapegoat for all the reckless buccaneering carried out by a host of Irish banking bluebloods from more rarified, traditional big banks. Compared to the way these fallen masters-of-the-universe slithered off to other lucrative earners, Seanie was treated unfairly.

But he wasn’t. What is unfair is that the other fat cats didn’t get the same treatment, and then some.

Tuesday’s funeral marked the passing of a notorious figure in the saga of the bank bailout and crippling recession which followed. But he was also a devoted family man and a very valued friend.

A large framed photograph of a smiling and very tanned FitzPatrick was placed on his coffin, along with a large spray of white roses.

“Dad, you were our rock from beginning to end. We love you so much. We will miss you dearly, but we know you will continue to be with us for the rest of our lives.”

And, sadly, that goes for many victims of the crash too.

It’s over for him now. A family mourns.

May he rest in peace.

This article was corrected on Thursday, November 18th to remove an erroneous reference to Larry Goodman attending the funeral

Miriam Lord

Miriam Lord

Miriam Lord is a colour writer and columnist with The Irish Times. She writes the Dáil Sketch, and her review of political happenings, Miriam Lord’s Week, appears every Saturday