Mourners wear peace ribbons as IRA man is buried

 

TEN days after the London explosion in which he died, the young IRA man, Mr Edward O'Brien, was buried yesterday in his home town. Well known republicans attended the funeral but there was no overt paramilitary display.

The six pall bearers, drawn from relatives and friends, wore white peace ribbons and formed a protective cordon throughout the funeral first around the O'Brien family and then, after the burial, around the grave. Many of the several hundred Gorey people who attended also wore white ribbons.

A number of prominent republicans joined the cortege on its way to the hilltop cemetery, including Mr Willie McGuinness, brother of Sinn Fein's Mr Martin McGuinness.

The Brixton Prison escapers, Mr Nessan Quinlivan and Mr Pearse McAuley, were also in the crowd, as was Ms Pamela Kane, who has been jailed for IRA of fences. All kept a discreet distance from the head of the procession, which was watched by large numbers of plain clothes and uniformed gardai.

It was a state funeral without the honours gardai did not quite outnumber mourners but they were everywhere. The Wexford town was ringed by checkpoints and there were advance checks on approach roads. The streets around St Michael's Church were heavily guarded, as was the cemetery during the burial.

Earlier, in church, Father Walter Forde, the local curate, condemned the "evil men who prey upon the impressionable" and who stayed at home when the acts they helped plan were being carried out.

"Today, we bring the soul of Ed O'Brien before a God of mercy, who knows the full circumstances of our lives, and we pray he will be merciful to Ed and give him peace."

The suffering of the O'Brien family could not be imagined, Father Forde continued. Their image of Ed was not the public one of a terrorist but the private one of a young man who was "quiet and tough minded" and loved his family. "Whatever he did, he is still their son and brother."

After the service, Mrs Margaret O'Brien and her son, Gary, went ahead of the cortege to greet its arrival in the cemetery. Mr Myles O'Brien helped carry his son's coffin from the hearse and then held his wife and children as they threw roses into the grave.

The huge media presence again attracted some muffled criticism. Father Forde had earlier welcomed journalists and thanked them for the sensitivity of their coverage of the week's events, as opposed to "the news gathering methods of some".

Most locals appeared resigned to the spotlight after a week. "The circus is over," muttered one local man after the burial.

The unofficial security cordon stood guard around the grave for a while, one of them blocking a cameraman trying to photograph a heart shaped wreath placed by the family.

Detectives and uniformed gardai also stood in groups around the cemetery but the republican presence had already melted away.