The State lost an “outstanding citizen and great patriot who possessed a radiant faith” in former Fine Gael and Independent TD Peter Mathews, Papal Nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown has said.
Dr Brown said that as Pope Francis’s representative in Ireland he wanted to offer his sympathies to the Mathews family and said “Peter loved his country, he loved his family and friends and he loved the Lord”.
He was speaking at the funeral Mass at the packed Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook, Dublin, for the 65-year-old former banking consultant and TD, who died 13 months after being diagnosed with oesophageal cancer.
Fine Gael members turned out in large numbers led by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and members of the Cabinet to join chief mourners Mr Mathews wife Susan, daughter Maria, sons James, John and David, his sisters and brothers Mark, Raphael, Gareth, Adrianne, Miriam and Stephen and his extended family and friends.
Ten members of the clergy attended at Mr Mathews funeral where chief celebrant Fr Conor Harper SJ said he was a man of old world courtesy and charm, of integrity and courage.
He said Mr Mathews would agree with late Church of Ireland Bishop George Otto Simms who said: “If only we could learn to agree to disagree without being disagreeable.”
Fr Harper described him as a man of integrity, good judgment, and courage to do the right thing as he saw it. “He was proud and appreciative of the education he got in Gonzaga College.”
He noted that the missalette for Mr Mathews displayed the Jesuit motto Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam (For the greater glory of God), which he used in his life.
A number of Gonzaga priests also celebrated the Mass including Fr Joe Brennan SJ and Fr Peter Sexton SJ along with Donnybrook parish priest, Msgr Lorcan O’Brien, parish priest at St Mary’s Drogheda, Fr Phil Gaffney, Fr Ralph Crowley, Fr James Conway, Fr Christopher Clarke and Fr Seamus Connolly from Kilbarrack parish.
The priest said: “Peter leaves a great legacy to his country as well as his family.” Speaking directly to the family he said: “The torch that he lit is now passed on to you, so keep the flame burning.”
In tributes, his eldest son John described his father as “a family man who was a man for others”. He said he offered his help, advice and love, “sometimes even when it wasn’t asked for”. The family had read hundreds of kind letters and messages from others, a reflection of his being a man for others.
Youngest son David said he was shining example of courage in how he dealt with his illness.
Eldest son James said his father was not a man to think about what he could get from life but what he could give. He was a “true gentleman”.
Fine Gael Cabinet members Richard Bruton, Michael Creed and Simon Harris attended along with party general secretary Tom Curran.
President Michael D Higgins was represented by his aide-de-camp Col Michael Kiernan.
Mourners also included those who left Fine Gael with him when they voted against the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill – former Renua leader Lucinda Creighton, former senator Fidelma Healy-Eames and former TDs Billy Timmins and Paul Bradford.
The three TDs from his former Dublin South, now Dublin-Rathdown constituency were also in attendance – Minister for Transport Shane Ross, Fine Gael TD Josepha Madigan and Green Party deputy leader Catherine Martin.
Former Dublin South TD Olivia Mitchell was also among the mourners as was former Progressive Democrats leader Des O’Malley, TV3 broadcaster Vincent Browne, former Fine Gael adviser Frank Flannery and Prof Ray Kinsella.
Fine Gael TDs Andrew Doyle, Eoghan Murphy, Fergus O’Dowd and Joe Carey attended as did Senators John O’Mahony, Joe O’Reilly and Neale Richmond.
Former Labour leader Joan Burton, Fianna Fáil TD Stephen Donnelly, Independent TD Tommy Broughan, Independent Senator Marie Louise O’Donnell and former tánaiste Michael McDowell were also there, along with Fianna Fáil Senator Gerry Horkan, former Fine Gael MEP Avril Doyle, former Fianna Fáil TD Charlie O’Connor and former senators Jim Walshe and Don Lydon.