THE number of people whose lives were saved by the late cardiologist, Maurice Neligan, could have filled the church in Dublin where his funeral Mass was held many times over.
Mourners at the ceremony for one of the country’s best-known surgeons at the Church of the Assumption in Booterstown heard he had performed over 14,000 open heart procedures during his long career in medicine.
“Many hearts are beating today thanks to his skills,” said local parish priest Monsignor Seamus Conway, who said the congregation had gathered to give thanks for “the lives saved, the lives prolonged and the lives enhanced” by Maurice.
Mr Neligan, 73, died suddenly but peacefully in his sleep at his home in Dublin last Friday.
In his homily, Msgr Conway recalled how the cardiologist was unique in his ability to put patients at their ease before surgery. Msgr Conway said his family had specifically chosen the parable of the Good Samaritan for the Gospel reading which resonated with the late surgeon’s compassionate work.
He also recalled his friend’s “appetite and zest for life, his thirst for knowledge, his love of reading, his great knowledge of literature, his golf and his passionate advocacy on behalf of patients” as well as his love of Co Kerry.
Mourners also heard of Mr Neligan’s pioneering work in Irish medicine as the first surgeon to perform a coronary artery bypass graft in 1975 and the country’s first heart transplant 10 years later as well as being one of the founders of the Blackrock Clinic.
Chief mourners were Mr Neligan’s wife, Pat, and his children Maurice, John, Catherine, David, Lisa and Lucy and his sister, Margot.
Prayers were also said for Mr Neligan’s youngest daughter, Sara, who was tragically murdered in June 2007. John Neligan remembered how her death had hit his father “incredibly hard” but how he also had a strong faith that they would meet again. On a lighter note, he joked how his father was a great believer and had texted him after Leinster’s recent victory over Munster with the message “There is a God.”
His eldest son, Maurice Jnr, also a surgeon, said his parents were the reason he had studied medicine and also referred to how his father had used his public profile to advocate for people he thought had no voice.
He had calculated that he and his father had both jointly operated on 30 patients at separate times. “I always had the sneaking suspicion that they were much happier with his ministrations,” he joked.
Maurice also praised the Irish Times for hiring their father as a columnist in his retirement and allowing him to offer “his unique insight into how Irish healthcare is delivered”.
“He mixed his articles with humour, stories of a life fondly remembered, with the real desire to change things for the better. This is his legacy.”
In another tribute, Mr Neligan’s youngest son, David, described his father as “my hero” and “an unapologetically biased Rock boy” – a reference to his alma mater, Blackrock College.
Among those in attendance were Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, broadcaster George Hook and international rugby referee Alain Rolland.
After the funeral Mass, Mr Neligan’s remains were brought to the crematorium at Mount Jerome Cemetery.
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