‘Diamond standard’ Dr Maurice Hayes remembered at funeral

Late former senator ‘a giant who strode the stage of life in so many and varied roles’

Amanda Ferguson in Downpatrick

Former senator Dr Maurice Hayes has been remembered as "diamond standard" and a "stalwart man of Down" who believed in justice, fairness and compassion, at his funeral in Downpatrick on Wednesday.

President Michael D Higgins and the Taoiseach's aide de camp Cmdt Caroline Burke were among hundreds of mourners to attend requiem Mass at St Patrick's Church in Downpatrick, Co Down.

Dr Hayes, from Killough, died on December 23rd aged 90.


The celebrant, Canon Sean Rogan, told mourners the former St Patrick's Grammar School (Red High) teacher – a member of the Patten Commission which created the PSNI – made tremendous contributions in the service of Irish language and culture.

His many roles included as GAA Down board secretary; town clerk of Downpatrick; chairman of the Community Relations Commission; being the first Catholic to be appointed Ombudsman for Northern Ireland; assistant secretary for the Northern Ireland power-sharing Executive; permanent secretary at the Department of Health and Social Services; senator in Seanad Éireann, and executive with the Ireland Funds.

‘Justice, fairness and compassion’

“He had this keen sense of justice, fairness and compassion for all, but especially with the oppressed,” Canon Rogan said. “Maurice Hayes was a giant who strode the stage of life in so many and varied roles – but always the same Maurice of integrity, honesty and humility.”

Mourners were told that two days before his death, as his wife Joan and Canon Rogan sat with him, he asked to have the eight beatitudes as the Gospel for his funeral Mass. “These for Maurice were the ingredients of the recipe for a decent Christian life,” Canon Rogan said.

Reflecting on those present, the canon spoke of Dr Hayes’s legacy being just as he would have wanted it: “People of different faiths, culture, political affiliations, gathered together as one.”

Among those present in the congregation were: Bishop of Down and Connor Noel Treanor; Fr Brian D'Arcy; North Down MP Lady Sylvia Hermon, Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard, SDLP MLA Sinead Bradley, former SDLP leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell, former Women's Coalition Professor Monica McWilliams, head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service David Sterling, veteran journalists Eamonn Mallie and David McKittrick, historian Eamon Phoenix, GAA figures Paddy Doherty, Dicky Murphy and Jarlath Burns, and artists Colin Davidson and Jim Manley.

Ex-Presbyterian moderator Rev John Dunlop and former Methodist president Rev Harold Good assisted Canon Rogan with prayers.

Rev Dunlop thanked God for Dr Hayes and others like him, who had been ahead of their time and had broad minds and breadth of understanding, due to their "seeking a future different from the past".

Rev Good recalled Dr Hayes coming to a Belfast carol service in 1969 at the peace line between the Shankill and the Falls, "an encourager as always". He thanked God for Dr Hayes, "for his intellect, and his integrity, fairness, sense of justice, his honesty, into which was woven his great compassion, his sportsmanship, his good humour, and his undimmed vision for this place he and we call home".

Poets and playwrights

A lover of poets and playwrights, poems selected by Dr Hayes were read by family at his funeral, including Thalassa by Louis MacNeice, The Haw Lantern by Seamus Heaney and Chenac by Michael Longley.

In a recent Irish-language interview with Eamonn Mallie, Dr Hayes was asked “How would you like to be remembered?” He replied: “I would like to be thought of as being honest.”

In a statement, Bishop of Down and Connor Noel Treanor spoke of the immense contribution he had made to the societal, cultural and political arenas across Ireland and said he had “espoused the highest ideals and virtues of citizenship”.

“He will be remembered for his capacity to respectfully bring together diverse political opinion and ideas,” he said.

Dr Hayes was buried afterwards in the grounds of Down Cathedral.

He is survived by his wife Joan and their five children, Clodagh, Margaret, Dara, Garrett and Ronan, and their families and wider family circle.