Funeral of former tánaiste Peter Barry held in Cork

Michael D Higgins and Enda Kenny among mourners at funeral of businessman

Former tánaiste Peter Barry’s greatest love was his wife Margaret who supported him throughout his career frequently rescuing him in awkward situations given his “terrible head for names,” his funeral heard yesterday.

Mr Barry’s son Tony said his father was never the same after the passing of his wife three years ago. Tony recalled how the pair’s first date was at a tea room followed by the cinema. After that they were pretty much inseparable going on to have six children and 21 grandchildren.

He spoke of his father’s great dedication to his mother when her health started to fail. “When Margaret got sick he cared for her with huge love and commitment. Things weren’t the same for him afterwards.”

Tony said his father also had a great passion for rugby. He also supported the GAA which he jokingly described as being the best organisation in the country after Fine Gael.


He told the hundreds of mourners at St Michael's Church in Blackrock, Cork about how his father built up Barry's Tea from humble beginnings in a small family grocery.

Peter Barry had wanted to be an engineer when he finished school at Christian Brothers College but he ended up in the family grocery as the small shop was not striving financially at the time. Tony said his father's decision to work in the shop was "probably the best thing to ever happen to him" and that his father became a master tea-taster.

He said his father served his country well politically. However, one of the sweetest periods of his life was his retirement when he was able to relax, read, and spend time with his wife, children and grandchildren.

Chief celebrant Fr Kieran Twomey recalled that he first met Peter Barry when he was asked to administer the Eucharist to him at his home. He said such was the class of the man that he apologised for not being able to stand up when the priest walked in.

“He had tremendous respect and because he couldn’t stand on his feet he said ‘I apologise I can’t stand to greet you.” That’s the gentleman that was Peter Barry. He was respected by all because God blessed him with special gifts.”

Fr Twomey said many of the mourners would have their own memories of the “generosity and kindness” of him . He described him as a man of his word who lived his life with great integrity and principle.

Among mourners at the mass were President Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Ministers in attendance including Leo Varadkar, Simon Coveney, Simon Harris and Michael Creed. Cork Fine Gael TDs and councillors past and present were in attendance including Senator Jerry Buttimer, Senator Colm Burke, Deputy Dara Murphy and former FG TDs Bernard Allen, Gerry Reynolds and John Browne.

Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin attended the 11.30am requiem Mass with his wife Mary whilst party finance spokesman Michael McGrath was also among the mourners.

Former Fine Gael leader Alan Dukes and former Fine Gael minister Nora Owen was in attendance along with Labour leader Brendan Howlin, former Labour Minister Kathleen Lynch, Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr Des Cahill, Sinn Féin councillor Chris O'Leary , former Progressive Democrats TD Mairin Quill and Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh O'Laoghaire.

The Bishop of Cork, Dr John Buckley, was one of eight celebrants on the altar for the requiem Mass. The Church of Ireland Bishop of Cork, Dr Paul Colton was also in attendance. The world of sport was represented by Cork GAA County secretary Frank Murphy.

Mr Barry was laid to rest at St Michael's Cemetery in Blackrock. The 88-year-old died in Marymount Hospice in the city after a short illness. He is survived by his children Deirdre (Clune), Tony, Fiona (MacCarthy), Donagh, Conor and Peter. Deirdre Clune is currently an MEP for Ireland South.