Defence Forces play key role in funeral of Albert Reynolds

State funeral goes from Donnybrook church to Shanganagh Cemetery

The coffin of former taoiseach Albert Reynolds arriving at Shanganagh Cemetery  following his funeral service at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook. Photograph: Maxwells/PA

The coffin of former taoiseach Albert Reynolds arriving at Shanganagh Cemetery following his funeral service at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook. Photograph: Maxwells/PA


The Defence Forces played the defining role on behalf of the State at the funeral of former taoiseach Albert Reynolds.

When the funeral Mass ended inside Donnybrook church, a bearer party, comprising 10 military policemen, led by Sgt Declan Kessie of the 2nd Brigade Military Police Company (Cathal Brugha Barracks, Dublin), carried the coffin draped in the national colours to the waiting hearse.

Each member of the bearer party had extensive experience of State occasions, including the visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Ireland and in the State funerals for former taoisigh Charles Haughey and Garret FitzGerald.

When the bearer party left the church grounds, they were met by 10 pallbearers, led by Lieut Col David Dignam from Defence Forces HQ, who saluted the coffin as it was loaded on to the hearse.

At the same time, a colour party of two officers, Capt Kieran Byrne carrying the national flag and Lieut Sarah Conlon carrying the 2nd Brigade colours, both draped with black ribbons of mourning, lowered the flags in the mourning salute as a mark of respect.

Funeral procession

The funeral procession then marched from the church a short distance along Donnybrook Road towards RTÉ – the walk being a traditional part of State funerals. Leading was the Army No1 Band, under the baton of Capt Fergal Carroll.

In due course, Lieut Col Walter Hunt, the hearse and vehicles carrying family mourners and other dignitaries were escorted to Shanganagh Cemetery, between Bray, Co Wicklow, and Shankill, Co Dublin, by the Lieutenants’ Escort of Honour, a flanking motorcycle military escort comprising 18 troopers, led by Lieut Grattan O’Hagan of the 2nd Cavalry Squadron.

Transported ahead of the main party with the assistance of motorcycle gardaí controlling other traffic, the pallbearers, bearer party, colour party, escort to the colours and the Army No 1 Band were waiting at Shanganagh when the hearse arrived.

Deliberate pace

It was led in to the cemetery by the band, the escort to the colour party (rested arms reversed as a mark of respect), and by the colour party. The pace was slow, deliberate and appropriately funereal.

The band played Caoineadh, a piece by Lieut Col Brendan Power (retired), a former director of the Defence Forces school of music, that is an arrangement of the traditional Irish tunes The Lament for Owen Roe O’Neill, Siúil a Rún and The Bantry Girl’s Lament.

A guard of honour, made up of 106 troops of all ranks from the 7th Infantry Battalion and under the command of Comdt Brian Donnagh, lined the route inside the cemetery gate as the hearse proceeded towards the graveside.

At the graveside and in pouring rain, the bearer party removed the flag from the coffin and, slowly and deliberately as is the tradition, folded it in the military fashion, green side up, before it was presented to Mr Reynolds’s widow, Kathleen, by Sgt Kessie.

Philip Reynolds, his arm around his mother, kissed her on the forehead. Earlier in church, Mr Reynolds noted the generosity accorded to his father in death that seemed to have eluded him in life.

As the Defence Forces accorded him full military honours on behalf of the State, family members dropped single-stem white roses on to the lowered coffin and a firing party from the 27th Infantry Battalion fired three volleys in salute before The Last Post and Reveille were sounded by a bugler and drummers from the Defence Forces school of music.