Funeral of activist Una O'Higgins O'Malley

Her life "was based on love, family and faith

Her life "was based on love, family and faith. She was considerate, brave, dignified, elegant, spiritual and generous, but there was a bit of steel there as well."

Kevin O'Malley was speaking about his mother, Una O'Higgins O'Malley, after her funeral Mass in the Church of the Sacred Heart, Donnybrook, Dublin, yesterday.

He felt it was the killings of both her father and grandfather which led to her developing "such sense of family". One of her favourite sayings was 'mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí" (praise the young and they will come to you), he recalled, "and certainly she practised what she preached."

He continued: "The great love of her life was Eoin, her young Lochinvar from the west. As children of this happy union we were much loved."


Earlier this year she had been very seriously ill. "We were concerned we might lose her. But she made an excellent recovery." Then "on Sunday she pulled a fast one on us. She slipped away quietly in her sleep," he said.

In his homily, chief celebrant Fr Enda McDonagh spoke of "the grace she gained from the brutal slaughter of her father", (then minister for justice Kevin O'Higgins, who was assassinated on a Dublin street in July 1927 when she was weeks old), which she "transmuted into love".

He recalled how on hearing that such was the killers' hatred for her father that they danced on his grave, her response was to organise a Mass for them and her father. "It was a very moving occasion," he remembered.

"We are all in need of reconciliation on this island, in this world. Una was a leader and a promoter of that," he said. Quoting from her poem, Twentieth Century Revisited, he read the line directing that "the indomitable Irishry of North and South gaze into the faces of their children, not ancestors, when planning the future".

Chief mourners were her husband, Eoin, and their children, Kevin, Eoin, Arthur, Chris, Finbarr and Iseult, their families and her sister Maev (Sr Kevin). Readings were by Finbarr, son Eoin and Iseult, with Prayers of the Faithful led by Chris and also read by her grandchildren, Fiona, Catherine, Brian, Eoin and Stephen. Her grand-daughter Grace sang the Prayer of St Francis. A copy of her 1999 poetry collection, Twentieth Century Revisited, was among the Offertory gifts.

President McAleese was represented by Comdt Mick Clancy. Also among the large attendance were Tánaiste Mary Harney; Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny; former taoiseach Garret FitzGerald; retired public servant Dr Ken Whitaker; former Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin Dr Donald Caird; Labour TD Joe Costello; Labour senator Derek McDowell; Labour councillor Alex White; Labour Party general secretary Mike Allen; Senator Mary Henry; former Fianna Fáil MEP Niall Andrews; and former Fine Gael TD Charlie Flanagan.

Among the Mass celebrants was Fr Austin Flannery OP.