Tributes have been paid to Polish national Marek Skiba, 51, described as “a soft soul who only wanted a beautiful ordinary life”.
At his funeral mass at the St Peter and Paul Cathedral in Ennis, Co Clare, yesterday, Alan Cooke, selected to speak by Marek’s friends, also told mourners that “Marek’s life was marked by hardship and struggle but also the kindness of others”.
The funeral mass took place three days after comedian Brendan O’Carroll stepped in to volunteer to pay the costs of the funeral. Mr O’Carroll’s pledge on last Friday’s RTÉ’s Liveline followed local undertaker Cyril Cusack stating that he would provide his services.
This was in response to an appeal on the Joe Duffy programme by homeless campaigner Josie O’Brien who revealed that Mr Skiba had died at his Ennis apartment on Christmas Day and his remains had remained at a mortuary in Limerick as there was no money there for a funeral.
Speaking after Mr Skiba’s burial at Drumcliffe cemetery, Ms O’Brien described the funeral mass and burial as ‘beautiful’.
An alcoholic, Marek was friends while he lived in Ennis, with the late Josef Pavelka who came to national prominence in 2013 after it emerged that the homeless man was sleeping in a council toilet. Two months later he was found dead in an Ennis laneway.
At the graveside attended by a small group of locals and members of the local Polish community, Fr Ger Fitzgerald said that Marek was buried not too far away from his old friend Josef at Drumcliffe cemetery.
Addressing mourners earlier at the cathedral, Fr Fitzgerald said “Marek has revealed himself to be a very surprising man. Marek was fluent in many languages — never knew. He was a man who was very capable with his hands — never knew and he was a man whose name was not really Marek — never knew.”
Alan Cooke said Marek “was a sensitive soul who travelled to Ireland to try to find a better life to breathe new air into his soul”.
Mr Cooke said Marek had worked at Mallow but had fallen on hard times. He said that an angel came into his life and her name was Bernie who looked after him and treated him with quiet dignity and they became the best of companions.
Speaking after the burial, Bernie — who did not want to give her surname — said: “Marek was a lovely fella. Very nice, very good and thoughtful but of course the drink — he was an alcoholic.”
Cyril Cusack said he was motivated to offer his services for free “because I felt sorry for the man. There is an old saying ‘leave no one above ground’ and I volunteered then”.
Asked if Brendan O’Carroll has been in contact, Mr Cusack said: “There has been no contact. If he wants to help with some of the costs we can go halves on it. I presume when it all dies down, he will be in contact.”
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