1,000 at funeral of shot GAA man

 

Those struggling to build peace in Northern Ireland "must be even more determined than ever" after the murder of Mr Gerry Devlin, the Bishop of Down and Connor has said. Dr Patrick Walsh was speaking yesterday at the funeral of Mr Devlin (36), who was shot dead by a loyalist gunman at St Enda's GAA club in Glengormley on the out- skirts of Belfast on Friday night.

Mr Devlin's wife Hazel, his mother and his two sons, Aidan (14), and Gavin (12), led more than 1,000 mourners who attended the funeral Mass in St Bernard's Church in Glengormley.

The president of the GAA, Mr Joe McDonagh, attended along with members of St Enda's club where Mr Devlin was manager of the senior team. School-friends of his sons also attended. A Gaelic football and the black-and-amber jersey of the club lay at the base of the altar during the service.

Dr Walsh said it was a dark hour for Mr Devlin's family and friends. He told mourners that over the last few months there had been glimmers of light and hope for the next generation, for young people like Mr Devlin's two boys. Building peace was slow and painstaking and the ground must first be cleared of all residues of hatred, bitterness and mistrust.

"Those who are genuinely struggling to build peace, to put the building blocks in place and to cement them, must be even more deter- mined than ever, in the wake of Gerry Devlin's murder, to push ahead and ensure that they do not allow the wreckers of peace to step in once more and set the agenda."

Dr Walsh said the members and club premises of St Enda's had been attacked so often and asked what could motivate someone "to gun down so mercilessly a man such as Gerry Devlin" who had given his time and talents to help young people channel their energies into healthy pursuits and give them a sense of values.

Father John Hutton, who celebrated the funeral Mass, said the gunman who shot Mr Devlin had "plunged a family into the darkness of sorrow and grief, leaving a young wife without a husband and two young boys without a father, three weeks before Christmas. It is all so cruel, so futile, pointless and meaningless."

Hope generated by the ceasefires had been dented, he said. "We have to remember the opposite to hope is despair, and we must never give in to despair." Mr Devlin had loved all sports including soccer, but his first love was Gaelic games. He had given practically a life service to St Enda's. As the coffin was carried from the chapel, draped with the club jersey, members of St Enda's formed a guard of honour. Hundreds of mourners walked the mile and a half behind the hearse to Carnmoney cemetery.

In an emotional scene after the burial, in driving rain, Mr Devlin's brother Kevin appealed to St Enda's members not to be deterred by the murder, but to help build up the club which opened new premises yesterday. "It's what Gerry would have wanted," he said.