Hundreds attend funeral of Tony Gregory

 

Hundreds of people have attended the funeral of Independent TD Tony Gregory in Dublin.

Mr Gregory, aged 61, died last Friday after a long battle with cancer.

The congregation included President Mary McAleese, Taoiseach Brian Cowen, former taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin, Social & Family Affairs Minister Mary Hanafin and Environment Minister John Gormley.

Political party leaders who attended included Enda Kenny of Fine Gael, Labour’s Eamon Gilmore, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams and Dail leader Caoimhghin O Caoláin.

Dozens of cross-party councillors, TDs and Senators were also present at today’s ceremony which was concelebrated by the Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin, Eamonn Walsh.

Other mourners from outside the political sphere included film director Neil Jordan, musician Liam O Maonlai who was a former student of Mr Gregory, businessman Bill Cullen, writer Nell Cafferty, former Supreme Court judge Hugh O’Flaherty and Ictu general secretary David Begg.

In his homily, Fr Peter McVerry described Mr Gregory as a true Christian who breathed new life into his community by giving local people renewed dignity and pride.

“Tony will be remembered for his lifelong and single-minded dedication, for his passion for the north inner city, for giving his whole life, his time and energy, for his brothers and sisters, here where he grew up and lived until death overtook him.

Fr McVerry, who knew Mr Gregory since the early 1970s, said he never sought public office to gain anything for himself but to give to his community.

He added: “He made open-necked shirts respectable, much to the consternation of the establishment of the that time — but Tony never sought to identify with the establishment and I think the feeling was mutual.

Fr McVerry told the congregation: “Politicians come and go, and although they won’t thank me for saying it, politicians get forgotten, But Tony Gregory will not be forgotten.

“God help whoever fill his seat in the coming by-election — they’re on a hiding to nothing.

“Perhaps the legacy that Tony would have wanted is that, long after his death, he will be remembered, appreciated and loved by the people whom he served so faithfully during life.”

Mr Gregory’s partner Annette Dolan said he was a man of principle and integrity who passionately fought for what he believed in.

“He was a great advocate for his community, a diligent public representative and a champion of the weakest sections of society.

“He continued to strive for social injustice by fighting against such evils as drugs and poverty and campaigning for such basic rights as equality of access to education and housing. May his legacy continue.”

Ms Dolan said Mr Gregory became involved in politics to make a difference to the lives of communities in Dublin’s inner city and she urged other activists, councillors, TDs and Senators to continue this work in his memory.

“Give them the courage and conviction of Tony to continue their work of service to the communities they represent,” she added.

However, politicains faced critisism from a friend of Mr Gregory, who she said would not approve of politicians using his funeral as a photo opportunity.

Cllr Maureen O’Sullivan, whom Mr Gregory entrusted to organise his funeral arrangements, also criticised the "lavish tributes" by those who gave little assistance to the community activist when he was alive.

Ms O’Sullivan also painted an affectionate portrait of the uncompromising Independent TD who always refused to wear a tie in the Dail chamber.

“So how would Tony have felt about certain politicians and their lavish tributes and praise over the last few days,” she asked at the ceremony in St Agatha’s Church.

“And those people speaking profusely about him in death, but during his life, when he came looking for help, never as much put a leaflet in a letterbox.

“His funeral is not a photo opportunity,” she added, to applause from the congregation.

In another jibe at mainstream politicians, she said: “Tony didn’t pretend to do things. He did them.”

Ms O’Sullivan also claimed he was “systematically excluded by every political party” from senior positions such as Lord Mayor during his 25-year stint on Dublin City Council and also during his term as a TD in the Dáil.

Mr Gregory’s remains were buried in Balgriffin Cemetery in north Co Dublin.

PA