Considering the tragic nature of his death, the words of Fr Seamus Houlihan at last night’s removal of the late Shane McEntee were all the more poignant to those in attendance.
“Shane died on the shortest day of the year,” Fr Houlihan told mourners of the 56-year-old junior minister and father of four who took his own life on Friday morning.
“The darkness had almost overcome the world, and God knows, because he didn’t know, and neither did the rest of us, what darkness or issues were working inside him.
“Nobody here can say I’ve never felt the darkness. Because if you’re honest, you have.
“We can only hope and pray now [that] Shane will be able to wrap his arms around each one he loves so much and say to each one of them: ‘I haven’t left you. I’m still with you. I’m still the light of your life’.”
The message from the pulpit was meant for Mr McEntee’s grief-stricken family. It struck just as much a chord with the thousands of mourners who arrived to pass on their condolences — including ministers, farm leaders, and sporting figures — at the Church of St John the Baptist in the Fine Gael TD’s Meath East constituency.
Earlier plans to hold proceedings in his parish church of Castletown were changed to Nobber, where his father Tony’s funeral took place in 2010, to facilitate the huge crowd.
The Tricolour, Meath, and Nobber flags flew at half-mast outside the church as the cortege arrived to be received by Fr Martin McErlean, Castletown parish priest; Fr Seamus Houlihan, Nobber parish priest; and seven diocese officials.
As Mr McEntee’s remains arrived, his wife Kathleen, his four children, and his mother Madge, as well as his brothers and sister, accompanied their loved one on his final journey.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s aide-de-camp, Commandant Michael Treacy, stood with Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, Health Minister James Reilly, and Social Protection Minister Joan Burton.
Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte and Government chief whip Paul Kehoe were also mourning the popular Meath man, while several Fine Gael TDs were visibly shaken as they filed past their colleague’s coffin.
Almost all political hues were present to offer condolences. They included Fine Gael TDs Damien English, Joe Carey, Tony McLoughlin, Patrick O’Donovan, and John O’Mahony; Labour’s Jack Wall and Emmett Stagg; Independent TD Catherine Murphy; and senator Thomas Byrne, a former Fianna Fáil Meath East TD.
MEPs Mairead McGuinness and Seán Kelly were also present, as was the former taoiseach John Bruton, and his wife Finola.
The Irish Farmers’ Association, which discussed various matters with Mr McEntee in his role as junior agriculture minister, was represented by its president, John Bryan. His predecessor Pádraig Walsh and former general secretary Michael Berkery were also present.
The death of Mr McEntee, an avid GAA fan, saw prominent sporting figures like former Meath managers Seán Boylan and Eamonn O’Brien, Kilkenny manager Brian Cody, and Kildare manager Kieran McGeeney in attendance.
Earlier, Mr Kenny and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin joined the thousands who visited the McEntee home where the minister had reposed since Saturday.
Mr Kenny and President Michael D Higgins will attend the funeral in St Patrick’s Church, Castletown, at 11am today, before burial at Nobber cemetery.
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