A standing ovation to celebrate life of Tony Gregory

 

A PAIR of swans rose gracefully from the Royal Canal just as Tony Gregory's remains, wrapped in the Starry Plough, emerged from his home in Sackville Gardens.

Hundreds had gathered in the bitter cold in Ballybough in inner-city Dublin to escort Mr Gregory to nearby St Agatha's Church, where large crowds had already gathered inside and out.

The Independent TD, who had served in the Dáil since his election in 1982, had died after a battle with stomach cancer.

His funeral, said Capuchin priest Fr Piaras Ó Duill, gave his community the chance to honour a man who displayed integrity, courage and selflessness during his life. "We join in sincere compassion as we share in this great loss and as we share it we express our deep appreciation for the life of Tony," he said. He had shown, said Fr O Duill, "a love for others" and a sympathy for the "many casualties of circumstance" that he came across as a TD.

"The depth of his sincerity was reflected in his deep faith that he displayed in the way that he lived his life and in the goals that he pursued," said Fr O Duill, who officiated alongside the local parish priest, Fr Brian Lawless.

Following a decade of the Rosary in Irish, the congregation spontaneously stood to offer an ovation to the late Mr Gregory, who died at just 61.

The list of dignitaries present was led by Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin and former taoiseach Bertie Ahern. Most present were locals, including many - such as Seanie Lambe, Fergus McCabe, Mick Rafferty, Frances Dunne and Cllr Maureen O'Sullivan - who had laboured alongside him from the beginning.

The Cuban Ambassador to Ireland, Noel Carrillo, came to present his country's condolences to Mr Gregory's partner, Annette Dolan, and his brother Noel.

Minister for Social Welfare Mary Hanafin, and Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy and Assistant Commissioner Al McHugh were also present.

So, too, were Ceann Comhairle John O'Donoghue and Ministers of State Sean Power and Conor Lenihan. Independent deputy Finian McGrath was also present, along with former colleagues Seamus Healy, Catherine Murphy, Paddy McHugh and Socialist Party leader and ex-Dublin West TD, Joe Higgins.

Fr Peter McVerry, the Jesuit who worked closely alongside Mr Gregory on inner-city issues and who will give an oration at today's funeral Mass, was also present, as was the Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin, Fachtna Ó Ceallaigh, and Church of Ireland Archdeacon of Dublin, David Pierpoint.

The Government Chief Whip, Pat Carey attended, as did the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Eibhlín Byrne and Fine Gael deputy leader Richard Bruton. Amongst the members of the Oireachtas present were TDs Joe Costello, Charlie O'Connor, Roisin Shortall, Joe Behan, Michael Woods, Tommy Broughan, Olivia Mitchell, Michael Mulcahy, Bernard Durkan and Cyprian Brady, along with Senators Anne Ormonde and Ivor Callely.

Members of Dublin City Council including Fianna Fáil's Cllr Mary Fitzpatrick, Labour's Eric Byrne and Sinn Féin's Christy Burke also attended.

Former Dublin city manager, Frank Feely; Cllr Nicky Kelly from Wicklow; artist Robert Ballagh and solicitor Greg O'Neill, who has represented the families of the victims of the Stardust disaster, were also present.

Mr Gregory's funeral takes place today after 10 o'clock Mass at St Agatha's to Old Balgriffin Cemetery. The bereaved have requested that no flowers be sent.