Priest condemns vengeance at restrained funeral of ‘ good man’

Sense of community prevails as slain Eddie Hutch snr carried to his final resting place

The funeral of Eddie Hutch Snr at the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes on Seán McDermott Street, Dublin

The funeral of Eddie Hutch Snr at the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes on Seán McDermott Street, Dublin

 

Faith, spirit and despair – what makes Dublin’s north inner city around Seán MacDermott Street Lower what it is – was on display around Our Lady of Lourdes church yesterday morning for the funeral Mass of Eddie Hutch.

At the entrance to the church, a large sign extolled the Venerable Matt Talbot, whose mortal remains are entombed in a shrine inside, a permanent source of inspiration to the faithful.

Opposite the church, St Mary’s Mansions is scarred by windows sealed with metal shutters, flats unoccupied in a city of homeless, a façade of black eyes looking out on the world.

A plaque on a gable wall facing the church recalls the bravery of Cpt Seán Heuston of the Irish Volunteers. He grew up on the street when it was known as Lower Gloucester Street and was executed, aged 25, after the 1916 Rising.

Down the road, at the junction with Lower Buckingham Street, there stands the memorial to the legion of the area’s people who have succumbed to the scourge of drugs. It might also be a monument to the grinding social deprivation and societal inequality that is everywhere to be seen.

Family funeral

Hutch (59), known to all his friends and family as Neddy, was not a gangland figure, whatever about some others close to him. He was a taxi driver and a father and remembered by friends as a bit of a prankster.

But in an act of gangland revenge, he was shot dead mercilessly on February 8th – three days after assault rifle-toting gangsters cut down David Byrne, a member of a Spanish-Irish drug gang at odds with Hutch relatives and their associates.

At Byrne’s funeral on Monday, Soprano-style gang culture was on display. Danger filled the air and sharp-suited menace moved through the crowd.

Yesterday, despite uniformed gardaí being present in numbers and well-armed Emergency Response Unit colleagues patrolling in their dark-windowed Land Rover, the atmosphere was in other respects that of a family funeral in a poor part of town.

The men of the family dressed smartly and the women wore their restrained best; there were no ostentatious displays.

They walked behind Neddy Hutch’s coffin, a taxi sign perched on top. Other totems of his life presented at the altar included a bottle of Corona beer, a bottle of sun tan lotion and a photograph of himself, while songs by the Bee Gees and Barbra Streisand were sung by a woman named Michelle.

Fr Damien O’Reilly from Saint Mary’s Pro-Cathedral was on hand to help and read the Gospel for the day, Matthew 5: 20-26.

In a clear, strong voice, he repeated the sacred text:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’”

The text, which urges those who have fallen out to reconcile themselves – “settle matters quickly with your adversary”, it says – was coincidental to the occasion, a pre-selected passage read at all Masses yesterday.

But the presiding priest, Fr Richard Ebejer of Our Lady’s parish, knew well how apposite it was.

“We are all aware of the circumstances of Neddy’s death,” he told the church, packed with about 800 people, “circumstances that have spiralled out of control, circumstances that have left families grieving in shock and pain, circumstances that have shocked the whole nation. All vengeful violence is to be condemned in the strongest terms possible, wherever it comes from . . . ”

Pain of forgiveness

“The goodness of the inner city is nourished by faith; we see it in Matt Talbot who shared in the life and goodness of his own people. We see it in Neddy, who was basically a good man, who would, as a taxi driver, wait on elderly ladies as they did their errands. He would share a good joke and was the life of a party, and he was good company in the pub. He did not deserve to die in this manner.”

Christ felt in his hands and feet the pain of forgiveness, he said. His message was not to inflict on others the evil visited on oneself.

“This is what the family had asked for, right from the very beginning, that there will be no retaliation,” said Fr Ebejer, who is originally from Malta. “This is indeed ‘goodness’ in the face of evil. It was a request that unfortunately has not been respected; with the result that now more families are in bereavement. They now call on everybody for this cycle of violence to stop, and to stop now.”

After some short reminiscences from friends that drew laughter and gratitude expressed to the community on behalf of the family, the cortege wound its way through Phibsborough, a Garda helicopter shadowing its journey to St Paul’s, the annex graveyard at Glasnevin.

Drug culture

Yesterday, as family members dropped single-stem red roses on to his coffin, Eddie Hutch snr was lowered into the ground to rest permanently beside his son: one the victim of the drug culture his father avoided, the other of the gangland gun culture that inevitably attends it.