It was a simple and dignified ceremony, straight-forward and to the point with little or no fuss, one he himself would have been proud of.
President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Enda Kenny were among those who paid their final respects to former tánaiste and businessman, Peter Barry, at his Requiem Mass yesterday.
Up to 700 mourners packed into his local church, St Michael’s in Blackrock, where they heard Tony Barry pay tribute to his father — an architect of the peace process who led the expansion of the family business, Barry’s Tea, and who died in Cork on Friday following a short illness.
Of course, there were mentions of his political and business achievements but the focus of his eulogy was more on Peter Barry as a husband to his late beloved wife Margaret, as a father to Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune, Tony, Fiona MacCarthy, Donagh, Conor, and Peter, and as a grandfather to 21, and a man who cherished life in retirement.
Celebrated by the Bishop of Cork and Ross, Most Rev Dr John Buckley, the Mass featured readings by Mr Barry’s grandchildren, Peter Clune, and Laura MacCarthy, and prayers of the faithful read by Rhona, Sophie, Rachel, and Kiera Barry.
Born into a political family in 1928, Tony said it was a natural progression for his father to follow his TD father Anthony into politics, serving as TD for Cork South Central from 1969 to 1997, as deputy leader of Fine Gael from 1979 to 1987, and again from 1989 to 1993, and as minister for foreign affairs in 1982, during which time he negotiated the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985 — a moment he regarded as the highlight of his political career. He retired from politics in 1997.
Tony said his father, throughout his political career, loved travelling the country meeting Fine Gael people, meeting people in general.
“Mum was always a great help to him. He had a terrible head for names and mum was always there to whisper the name for him,” he said.
But he dwelled more on his father’s private life.
“Following his retirement, it was the happiest and most content time of his life.
“Not that he wanted to get out of politics — but he had done his bit. He relaxed. He had more time to enjoy his family. He travelled a lot with Margaret, and they spent a lot of time in Ballylickey in West Cork. And he loved that time. He had 21 grandchildren and that kept him busy and interested. It was a great period for him.”
He recalled his father spearheading the expansion of Barry’s Tea, and of tea tasting with Denis Daly, chatting about crops and the price of tea. “With his going, we’ve one less tea taster in the country.”
He also recalled his love of reading, of tending the garden at home, and of his interest in sport — rugby and Cork and Blackrock GAA in particular. But he said he was devastated following the death of Margaret in 2013. “Things really weren’t the same for him afterwards,” he said, thanking the carers who tended to him in recent months.
In typical Peter Barry style, straight-forward and to the point, Tony concluded: “Born in 1928, he built up a fine business, married, he had six children, he did his bit for the State, and he died aged 88. It was a good life.”
In his homily, Blackrock parish priest Canon Kieran Twomey, who visited the Barry home regularly with the Eucharist, recalled how in recent months, Mr Barry would apologise for not being able to stand to greet him.
“He was a gentleman and a man of faith, a man of great principle. His word was his bond. He was true to his word. That’s why there was so much respect for him across Ireland and further afield. You knew they were dealing with a straight man. You knew you could trust him,” he said.
Mr Barry’s coffin, draped with a Tricolour, was carried from the church by family members, before mourners lined the street outside and applauded as the cortege moved off.
It paused briefly outside Blackrock GAA Club, before Mr Barry was buried alongside Margaret in St Michael’s Cemetery afterwards.
Business and political leaders gather to pay their respects
Leading figures from the worlds of politics and business gathered yesterday to pay their respects to former statesman and businessman Peter Barry, the figurehead of one of Ireland’s great political dynasties and head of the iconic Barry’s Tea.
The requiem Mass was celebrated by Bishop of Cork and Ross, Most Rev Dr John Buckley, assisted by Canons Kieran Twomey, Liam O’Regan, and Michael Murphy, An t-Athair Tadhg Ó Mathúna, Fr Pat O’Herlihy, Fr Pat O’Mahony, and Fr Christy Fitzgerald, with Church of Ireland Bishop of Cork, Dr Paul Colton, also presiding.
Among those who attended the Mass were President Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Lord Mayor of Cork Des Cahill, and the chief executive of Cork City Council, Ann Doherty.
Ministers present included Simon Coveney, Charlie Flanagan, Leo Varadkar, Michael Creed, and Simon Harris, and junior ministers Dara Murphy, David Stanton and Patrick O’Donovan.
Fine Gael’s chief whip Regina Doherty and Fine Gael MEPs Sean Kelly and Brian Hayes attended, as did Fine Gael TD Jim Daly, senators Jerry Buttimer and Colm Burke, as well as parliamentary party chairman Martin Heydon.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, his wife Mary, and the party’s finance spokesman Michael McGrath attended, as did Labour leader Brendan Howlin, and former Labour minister Kathleen Lynch.
Also among the congregation were former TDs Bernard Allen, Paul Bradford, John Browne, Gerry Reynolds, and former Munster MEP, John Cushnahan, as well as ex-ministers Alan Dukes, Nora Owen, Sean Barrett, and Tom O’Donnell, and former attorney general and EU commissioner Peter Sutherland.
Former SDLP politician and Fine Gael TD Austin Curry, who was the party’s 1990 presidential candidate was there, as was musician Peadar Ó Riada and his sister, Ireland South Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada.
Former senator Mairín Quill, TD Michael Lowry, former Port of Cork chairman Frank Boland, former European golf pro and businessman John McHenry, businessman Michael Mulcahy, and judges Olann Kelleher and James McNulty also attended.
The business community was represented by Cork Chamber’s Barrie O’Connell and Conor Healy, by Cork Business Association members Pat O’Connell, Clair Nash, and Laurence Owens, and by James O’Sullivan of MP O’Sullivan Wholesalers.
Landmark Media’s Tom Crosbie, his wife Clair, and the editor of the Irish Examiner, Tim Vaughan, attended, as did elderly rights campaigner Paddy O’Brien, Cork GAA county board secretary Frank Murphy, and actor Michael Twomey.
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