President at funeral of poet's mother


PRESIDENT MICHAEL D Higgins attended the funeral yesterday in Co Clare of Josie O’Donohue, mother of late poet and former priest John O’Donohue.

Dr O’Donohue died four years ago today at age 53 after collapsing in France. His mother Josie, née Dunleavy, died peacefully on New Year’s Eve – also the eve of Dr O’Donohue’s birthday – at her home near Ballyvaughan.

Mrs O’Donohue’s funeral Mass was held in St Patrick’s Church in Fanore, Co Clare. Her remains were buried in a windswept Craggagh cemetery alongside those of Dr O’Donohue and her husband, Paddy.

Mr Higgins was a friend of Dr O’Donohue. The latter’s poem Beannacht, which he wrote for his mother, was performed at the presidential inauguration last November. The President once described Dr O’Donohue as “an inspirational figure” and a person of “immense courage who gave witness to truth”.

The President walked with a slight limp after knee surgery last month, and carried a single crutch as he left the church after yesterday’s ceremony.

Mrs O’Donohue is survived by her daughter Mary, sons PJ and Pat and sisters Tess, Liz and Eileen.

One local said: “That was right decent of him to come all that way from Dublin. We didn’t know he’d be here to be honest, so it was a bit of a surprise. It was kept quiet but it was nice.”

A message on Dr O’Donohue’s website said: “On December 31, 2011, John’s dear mother, Josie O’Donohue, passed away. She was surrounded by her family when she slipped peacefully across that threshold to John’s waiting arms.”

A Clare native, Dr O’Donohue studied for the priesthood in Maynooth, where he was ordained in 1982. He served in a number of parishes before completing a doctorate on the philosophy of GWF Hegel in Germany.

His first book, Anam Cara, was published in 1997.

It became an international bestseller, and at the end of 2000 he retired from public priestly ministry and devoted himself full-time to his writing and to advocating against social injustice.

Last December, his will was declared void because of uncertainty over its meaning. As a result the entire €2 million estate passed to his mother.