The distance between the Ryan family home on Grange Abbey Drive and the Church of the Holy Trinity in Donaghmede, Dublin is no more than 1.5km, but it took well over an hour for the coffin of Vincent Ryan to be carried along the route yesterday.
A piper led the way, playing a mix of The Minstrel Boy and Dvorak’s Going Home.
Ryan's associates from the so-called Real IRA, a faction of which once led by his assassinated brother, Alan, milked the occasion for all it was worth.
Vincent Ryan, who worked as a barber in Tallaght, was a Real IRA bit player, not a leader, but he was going to get a highly visible funeral nonetheless.
He was a life-long republican and had been in the organisation’s youth wing, Na Fianna.
The hearse was flanked by an “honour guard” of 10 people in black trousers, white shirts and black ties, each with an Easter lily badge pinned on.
They were commanded by a similarly dressed woman who walked in front of them.
“Paráid,” she shouted, bringing them to order.
“Aird,” she said, and they snapped to attention before moving off, walking, military funeral style.
Behind them, were about 20 more similarly dressed figures in two lines, each one flanking the main body of mourners – the family and friends of the deceased – who followed his Tricolour-draped coffin carried shoulder high by six pall-bearers.
Front and centre among the mourners was Kelly Smyth, Ryan's partner, pushing a pram carrying their daughter Phoenix, born just six weeks ago.
The funeral cortege proceeded for only about 20-30m before stopping and waiting for up to a minute each time, the “honour guard” remaining rigidly at attention, as uniform gardaí ushered traffic around the obstacle.
Armed officers maintained a highly visible presence.
As the cortege neared the church, 15 motorcycle racing bikes, 600cc and up, lined either side of the road.
When the hearse passed them and turned into the church, the bike engines were revved again and again in an aggressive salute to a fellow biker.
Some 600 people filled the church. Gifts brought to the altar included a motorcycle helmet (“He loved the open road”, said Fr Gerry Corcoran); a barber’s scissors set and clippers (“He worked hard to further his career”); and photograph of him with Phoenix (“the love of his life”).
Ryan inhabited that opaque space in which it is impossible to distinguish between drug gangs, dissident republicans and those who think they can straddle both camps.
He died on February 29th after being shot while sitting in his car outside Kelly’s house.
“Much has been written and said about Vincent in the media in recent days,” the priest said.
“But to his family, to those who actually knew him, he was a loving son, a partner, a father, brother, uncle, cousin and friend.
He loved his partner Kelly and the birth of their baby daughter Phoenix just six weeks ago brought great joy and new life to them.”
Kelly said some people went through life never finding true love.
“I was one of the few lucky ones. I found my Vinnie,” she said to the coffin in front of her.
“You were my best friend and my soulmate. You brought so much happiness in to my life . . .
“We had the perfect little family. We had so much planned for our future. You wanted more kids and we were supposed to get married.
“The last conversation that we had was about getting married. You used to say to me before you kissed me ‘this is how I’m going to kiss you when we get married’ . . . Now we will never get that day or any other. I’m broken . . .
‘Looking over us’
“I promise to tell Phoenix about you every single day. You should be there for her first words, her first steps, her first Christmas and birthday.
“I promise to make you proud of me and her growing up.
“I hope wherever you are you are happy and you are looking over us.” Soprano Sarah Bass, with pianist Vincent Lynch, sang Here I am Lord, Sé an Tiarna m’aoire, On Eagles’ Wings, Be Not Afraid and Pie Jesu (Lloyd-Webber version).
The piper and the white shirts brought the body to Fingal Cemetery in Balgriffin where Ryan was lowered, buried with his brother, Alan.
The Tricolour was removed from the coffin, folded military style, triangle on to triangle, and handed to his mother Marion.
Someone strummed a guitar and sang a version of Amhrán na bhFiann.
There was no oration. No one said anything but Kelly put on a CD of Ed Sheeran singing Photograph which includes the line “Wait for me to come home”.
As the words rang out, she buried her face in both hands and cried without restraint, gasping for air between howling sobs.