Funeral of Bill O’Herlihy takes place in Dublin

Mourners fill Foxrock church where they heard of ‘infectious joy’ of broadcaster

 

The funeral has taken place of the broadcaster Bill O’Herlihy who died suddenly this week at the age of 76.

The congregation at a packed Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Foxrock, Dublin included President Michael D Higgins and well-known figures from the worlds of sport, politics, broadcasting and the film industry, reflecting his varied lifetime in journalism and public relations.

Mr O’Herlihy’s “conversation with the nation” which was his long-term television relationship with soccer pundits, the “dysfunctional family, the three amigos”, Eamon Dunphy, John Giles and Liam Brady, was recognised when all three men carried his coffin out of the church. Brady was seen to wipe away a tear after the service.

His long-time friend and chief celebrant Fr Tom O’Keeffe said the two great pillars of Mr O’Herlihy’s life were faith and family.

Fr O’ Keeffe described Mr O’ Herlihy as one of life’s “lamplighters”, somebody who sought to light a candle rather than curse the darkness. He praised his “goodness, generosity, infectious joy and integrity”.

Fr O’Keeffe told the congregation the walls of the O’Herlihy family home were covered in photographs, but none were of Bill nor his achievements. They were all of his family.

‘Dark times’

Even in the dark times such as when he had to leave RTÉ’s current affairs department in the 1970s, he felt the “hand of God” directing him towards the sports department.

The money lender programme which he made in the early 1970s was typical of a man who was “prepared to take the rap and stand his ground with courage and integrity when people in higher places were often indifferent, or sitting on the fence. He believed God moves in mysterious ways.”

On his final sign off in July after nearly 50 years of broadcasting he spoke of having “served you the viewer”. This was typical of his magnanimity and consideration for others, Fr O’Keeffe said.

The chief mourners at the funeral were Mr O’Herlihy’s wife Hilary, his daughters Jill and Sally, sons-in-law Johnny and Paddy, his grandchildren, Martha, Bill, Jack, Isla and Faye and his brothers Jack, David and Peter.

‘Best dad’

Mr O’Herlihy’s daughter Sally described her father as the “most caring, loyal and wonderful husband. He was a brilliant Granddad. Not only was he the best Dad, he was really our best friend.

“We are utterly shocked and totally heartbroken. We are overwhelmed with the outpouring of love and support from people we know and people we don’t know.”

She referred to his sudden death bringing a “tornado of grief” on the family, but said they will be helped through the dark days by the “kindness, strength and memories being sent our way”.

She signed off as her father regularly signed off: “We’ll leave it there so. God bless”.

Mr O’Herlihy’s brother Pat also referred to Mr O’Herlihy’s strong religious faith. Bill was one of six children. The family struggled, but their parents “never struggled to love us. They wanted us to succeed, but in a way that we made a good contribution to society”.

His brother was “comfortable in who he was” and that came from a religious belief fostered in a household that said the rosary every night, Pat O’Herlihy said.

Despite all the scandals involving the Church, he never lost that faith nor his devotion to the Virgin Mary.

Among those attending the service were his RTÉ colleagues Marty Morrissey, Darragh Maloney, Michael Lyster and the head of sport Ryle Nugent.

Former Ireland internationals Ray Houghton and Richard Sadlier, who are also RTÉ panel members attended, as did former Ireland manager Brian Kerr.

Also in attendance were fellow broadcasters George Hook and Seán O’Rourke.

Those from the world of politics included the Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton, Fine Gael TD Mary Mitchell O’Connor, MEP Sean Kelly, independent TD Peter Mathews, former Fianna Fáil minister Mary Hanafin and former Fine Gael strategist Frank Flannery.

His long-time imitator Risteard Cooper and Gary Cooke from Aprés Match were there.

The funeral mass was followed by burial at Shanganagh Cemetery.