Fond farewells at funeral of FF stalwart Michael O’Kennedy

Taoiseach Micheál Martin delivers graveside oration for former Fianna Fáil minister

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has described former Fianna Fáil minister Michael O'Kennedy as an "Irish patriot who devoted his life to the distinguished service of his community and his country".

Mr Martin delivered the graveside oration at the funeral of Mr O'Kennedy who died aged 86 on Friday in Dublin.

Mr O'Kennedy served as an Oireachtas member for more than 35 years, holding six different ministerial portfolios. He was also a European commissioner.

Mr Martin said his former colleague was known internationally and met with many of world leaders of the late 20th century.

"Yet wherever he was in the world and whatever high position he held, Michael O'Kennedy was always defined by the values he learned here in Nenagh. "

He was destined from an early age to make his mark after an outstanding career as a student in UCD and after studying for the bar, the Taoiseach recalled.

He was championed in his early career by then taoiseach Seán Lemass who saw in Mr O’Kennedy a “deep intelligence with an understanding that a democratic republic should both be proud of its history and constantly looking for ways to improve”.

He was also involved in the Northern Ireland negotiations, the Taoiseach recalled. "He never failed to speak up for basic democratic republican principles. And he never faltered in his belief that dialogue built on democratic principles was the only sustainable route forward."

He was held in high regard not only in Fianna Fáil but in other parties too as witnessed by tributes from President Michael D Higgins and former Fine Gael taoiseach John Bruton, among others. "

“The tributes are testament to both his decency and the fact that his was no ordinary career,” said Mr Martin.

Mr O’Kennedy’s son Brian told the funeral Mass at St Mary of the Rosary Church in Nenagh that his father was “always a Nenagh boy at heart” wherever he went in the world.

Fianna Fáil taoisigh

His proudest moment was when he brought 20 agriculture ministers across Europe to visit his mother and her little shop in Nenagh.

“He treated all people in the same way without fear or prejudice,” he said.

Brian O’Kennedy thanked respective Fianna Fáil taoisigh for giving his father the opportunity to serve his country.

“He was a proud Fianna Fáil man. He was proud of the progressive and mature republic we are so fortunate to live in.”

Delivering the homily at the funeral Mass, former bishop of Killaloe Willie Walsh said Mr O'Kennedy had a "very strong faith" which he demonstrated in his love for his wife of 56 years, Breda, and their three children.

He said the “vast majority” of public representatives serve out of a “sense of idealism and generosity”. They do so, he added, often at the expense of privacy in their lives and at the expense of time with their families and friends.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times

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