Family of Paul ‘Babs’ Connolly tell funeral they will ‘fight for justice’

Offally man died after an alleged unprovoked assault while on a stag party in Athlone at the weekend

Paul ‘Babs’ Connolly, who died after an alleged unprovoked assault while on a stag party in Athlone at the weekend, was a “child at heart with a heart of gold”, his funeral has heard.

During the Mass at St Mary’s Church in his native Edenderry, Co Offaly, the 47-year-old’s niece Shona Connolly vowed the family would fight for justice in the wake of his “cruel and unjust” death.

They have “been rocked” by his tragic passing “and I know the rest of Edenderry and the rest of Ireland are shaken by his sudden loss of life”, she told mourners.

“I want to start by saying Babs’ life will not be reduced to unpleasant headlines or media soundbites,” she added.


“What happened to Paul was cruel and unjust and we as a family will fight for justice on behalf of our fallen family member.”

All those gathered in the church knew Mr Connolly in a variety of ways – as a brother, an uncle, a cousin or a loving friend – but “it was safe to say however Babs entered your life, he added to it in a unique way”, Ms Connolly said.

Recounting how he grew up on Assumption Road in Edenderry, one of 12 children to father Michael ‘Major’ Connolly and mother Bridie, Ms Connolly said: “You can only imagine the shenanigans in that household, with so many personalities and messers under one roof.”

There was “always some kind of mischief, playing pranks, laughing and joking together and at the end of day they were always there for one another and loved one another dearly”.

As an uncle, Mr Connolly had a “huge influence on all his nieces and nephews and was always happy to share his passions” including music, movies, books and motorcycling.

His favourite bands included Queen, Thin Lizzy, Guns n Roses “and, of course, Bruce Springsteen, who was always blasting out of his record player up in Bridie’s house”.

As his coffin was brought into the church, a piano and vocal version of Springsteen’s If I should Fall Behind was performed.

“My cousin Michael said it best recently, when he described how Paul passed on his love of music to all of us, and how those songs have now become the soundtrack to our childhood,” said Ms Connolly.

“Babs was also a loyal and caring friend, always there when you needed him and always ready to crack a joke and have a laugh with all his pals. He loved his friends deeply and they loved him in return. They were brothers until the end.

“This week we all shared stories about Babs and some of them I can’t mention here for obvious reasons, but all of them are full of love and laughter.

“It has been said to me so many times this week that Edenderry has lost one of its great characters and that is what Babs was – he was a real character.”

Symbols of his life – a DVD for film, a CD for music and a weight to represent his love of working out at the gym – were placed by portraits of Mr Connolly on his coffin.

Fr Petru Medves told the Mass that Mr Connolly was the second youngest in his large family and was a “big child at heart with a heart of gold”.

Family and friends described him as a “great character, very funny and witty”. As well as Springsteen, a performance of Leonard’s Cohen’s Hallelujah was played at the ceremony.

Mr Connolly was to be buried afterwards in St Mary’s Cemetery.

He was predeceased by his father Michael and, recently, his mother Bridie as well as his sister Martina, nephews Leon and Mark and grandniece Makayla.

Mr Connolly is survived by brothers and sisters Raymond, Ann, Patricia, Michael, Marie, Brenda, David, Carmel, Joan and Dianne, his brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, grandnieces, grandnephews, relatives and much loved friends.

Brian Hutton

Brian Hutton is a freelance journalist and Irish Times contributor