Final farewell for ‘Deano’ a simple and sad occasion

At Dean Fitzpatrick’s funeral, it was hard to believe so much heartbreak could be visited upon one family

Dean Fitzpatrick’s father Christopher, carrying Dean’s son Leon and followed by Dean’s girlfriend Sarah O’Rourke, arrives at the Holy Trinity church in Donaghmede for Mr Fitzpatrick’s funeral. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Dean Fitzpatrick’s father Christopher, carrying Dean’s son Leon and followed by Dean’s girlfriend Sarah O’Rourke, arrives at the Holy Trinity church in Donaghmede for Mr Fitzpatrick’s funeral. Photograph: Cyril Byrne


A young man was buried in Dublin yesterday, his friends looking uncomfortable in their white shirts and black interview trousers.

They brought a few of his favourite things to the remembrance table. Some helped his father carry the coffin to the hearse; others formed a makeshift guard of honour along the driveway from the church.

For Deano. His name in roses and carnations propped against the polished glass.

The young women in their summer clothes looked on, hugging each other.

It’s an all too familiar sight in Ireland these days – young men’s funerals which really shouldn’t be taking place, with their congregations of the bereft wondering how on God’s Earth this could have happened. Desperately sad, sadly unexceptional funerals.

Depressing reality
Yesterday’s seemed no different, until you saw the knot of photographers standing outside the Church of the Holy Trinity in the north Dublin suburb of Donaghmede, and the news reporters and colour writers in the back pew discreetly taking notes.

Dean Fitzpatrick was 23 when he was stabbed to death. His stepfather, Dave Mahon, who presented himself to gardaí after the incident, has been named as a suspect.

The depressing reality is that this singular family tragedy wouldn’t ordinarily warrant as much media attention.

But Dean’s death shocked the country. Everyone knows of the disappearance of his sister, Amy, the 15-year-old Dublin girl who went missing in Spain in 2008 and is feared dead.

How could so much heartbreak and grief be visited on one family? Even the funeral became an ordeal.

It was delayed due to a legal dispute over the arrangements between Dean’s separated parents. The remains were eventually released to his partner, Sarah (28), with whom he has an 18-month-old son, Leon.

His distraught mother, Audrey, attended the removal service on Monday evening. However, at the start of yesterday morning’s Mass, Fr Eoin McCrystal announced that she took ill after it and would not now be at the funeral.

Dean’s father, Christopher, his stepbrother, Alex, along with Sarah and baby Leon were the chief mourners.

The mates who had shouldered Dean’s coffin the evening before wearing shorts and trainers were now sombrely dressed in business attire. They took up several rows at the front of the church, a fidgety bloc of white shirts and close-shaven hair.

Dean loved working out at the gym. A shiny dumbbell was placed on the table beside the coffin, next to his photograph. Another pal brought up a miniature bicycle, because Dean was a keen cyclist.

Loved music
There were headphones because he loved his music and a cross because “of his love of religious objects” and as a symbol of his faith.

The lads smiled when the first gift brought forward was a baseball cap.

“This represents Dean’s great sense of fashion. He always liked to wear his tracksuit and he was never without a baseball cap,” said Fr McCrystal.

It was a simple ceremony.

“Dean was a young man with plenty of life in him so it is only natural that there are many broken hearts in this church this morning,” he said.

There were prayers for missing Amy. (Dean was buried in a plot in Fingal Cemetery and his father hopes she may find her final resting place there some day.) And there were prayers for the family, that in time they, too, might find peace.

The celebrant addressed Dean’s friends directly, saying he recognised this was a very difficult time. He asked them to support each other and told them not to be afraid to reach out and seek help if they need it.

“Dean was a lovely young man and a great friend to all of us,” said his best friend, Kevin Harris. “He always had a big smile on his face and was full of energy.” He loved his partner, Sarah, he loved her daughter Sophie “as his own” and he doted on Leon.

“Till we meet again, rest in peace, Deano.”

Incense swirled in the shafts of morning sunlight as the young men left the church, looking almost relieved to have some tasks to complete. To be doing something.

At the graveside, a haunting song played from a car music system.

It was the couple’s favourite, sung by Emeli Sandé.

“So put it in all of the papers, I’m not afraid. They can read all about it. Read all about it.”

And seven white doves were released to the summer sky.