Mourners warned against protest as Toyosi is laid to rest


The coffin of the 15-year-old was draped in soccer flags as friends and family said goodbye, writes KATHY SHERIDAN

“NO AMOUNT of protest, no demonstration will bring back this boy’s soul. Your good mind is what he needs – not fighting, not crying,” Imam Shehu Adeniji told mourners at the funeral of Toyosi Shitta-bey, the 15-year-old Nigerian-born student killed last Friday in Tyrrelstown, west Dublin.

Referring afterwards to the march planned for Dublin city tomorrow, he said: “Demonstration is uncalled for. We do not approve of it. It is creating social unrest . . .”

Their concern was about the “intention of those who want to protest”, added the assistant imam at the mosque in Dublin’s Sheriff Street, Alhaj Saliu Adewunmi Adeniran. “It can instigate problems with teenagers and we are worried about where it might lead.”

The funeral ceremonies, conducted according to Islamic rites, began with the ritual washing and embalming of the body at a Lucan funeral home, attended by Toyosi’s father, Segun Shitta-bey, his two brothers, Sodiq (22) and Tunde (12), and close family members. Later, teachers, community leaders, football club officials, and many young school friends and soccer team-mates from Littlepace and Shelbourne clubs filed past his open coffin.

Two 16-year-olds emerged together, both obviously in shock: “It looks nothing like him”, said the Irish boy. “I never saw a dead body before,” said his Nigerian friend. As they walked off in silence, Segun Shitta-bey too was leaving, to return home to be with his wife, Bola.

According to Nigerian culture and custom, parents do not attend the burial of their child.

Afterwards, the coffin, draped in the flag of Shelbourne soccer club, was driven by hearse through Lucan village and on to Newcastle, Co Dublin, at the head of a long cortege with a Garda escort.

On arrival, the “Respect” flag of Uefa was placed on the coffin, and as time had not permitted prayers at a mosque, the imam and chief mourners, with the coffin to the side, away from the main body of mourners, held a short private service, after which the coffin was returned to the graveside, where young friends from Littlepace soccer club formed a guard of honour.

Then the lid was opened and the shrouded body removed, amid loud wailing, weeping and calls to Allah.

It was lowered gently into the grave to the waiting arms of two imams, and thence onto wooden slabs, where 15-year-old Toyosi Shitta-bey was laid to rest on his right side, facing east.

Sodiq and Tunde were the first to throw soil onto their brother’s body, followed by friends and team-mates. There would be a “big reward” from Almighty God for those who would “help to put the sand back in place”, said Imam Adeniji, while the crowd began a slow chant: “There is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and holy prophet Muhammad, who is the messenger of Allah . . ,” repeating the lines over and over in trembling voices.

The imam then spoke in English, telling the mourners – many of them youths –  that this was “just a big lesson for everybody, so it can improve our lives. Say from now on, I will be law-abiding and follow the way of God, I will not be negative for now”.

“There is no one who will not die. Follow the way of Allah . . ,” he said, urging people to give every kind of moral and financial assistance to the Shitta-bey family.

Among the attendance were Mary White, Minister of State for Equality and Integration; the Nigerian ambassador, Dr Kemafo Nonyerem Chikwe; Joe Higgins MEP; Insp Gerry Bergin, Supt Dave Dowling and Sgt Vincent Connolly, community policing officer and family liaison, all from Blanchardstown Garda station; John Delaney, chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland, and the body’s integration officer, Des Tomlinson; representatives of Shelbourne football club, Fran Renwick, John Phelan and Philip Devereux; Cllr Ruth Coppinger; Cllr Kieran Dennison; Seán Fitzmaurice, deputy principal of Hartstown Community School; Toyosi’s year head, Eoin Brady; and Fr Dan Jo O’Mahony.