‘Goodbye my friend and thank you’

JUST a few hundred yards from the Holy Cross Church in Dublin lies the Dundrum Luas stop.

An appropriate setting, then, for the funeral of Seamus Brennan, the former transport minister who had overseen the introduction of the light-rail system to the capital.

In a warm, humorous touch, one of the four offertory gifts during the Mass was a return ticket for the Luas, which brought wry smiles from mourners in the packed church, where there was standing room only some 10 minutes before the service began.

Mr Brennan was not the sole minister associated with the project, but more than anyone else, he ensured the delays finally ended and Luas got on track.

“Seamus was a doer,” Taoiseach Brian Cowen said, “and someone brave enough to roll up his sleeves.

“For me, the essence of Seamus’s magic was the gift of quiet encouragement and empathy, reassurance and friendship, the sublime combination of common sense and uncommon courage,” Mr Cowen added.

“He was a distinguished and patriotic Irishman, who always used his abundant ability in the service of his country. He was a decent, caring and compassionate human being.”

Mr Cowen spoke at the end of the service, offering his condolences to Mr Brennan’s wife, Ann, his sons Shay and Eanna, his daughters Daire, Aoife, Sine and Breffni, and his wider family.

“It is said that the finest epitaph that any man can have is the love of his family and the regard of his friends. Seamus Brennan enjoyed both of these blessings in abundance,” Mr Cowen said.

“We mourn too, today, the loss of a public man. Seamus Brennan was an exceptional figure in Irish public life. To quote the late president Kennedy, ‘a nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honours, the men it remembers’. Seamus Brennan will long be remembered as a brilliant political strategist, a dedicated constituency TD, a reforming minister and a very popular colleague.”

Both Mr Brennan’s sons also spoke movingly of their late father.

Eanna Brennan said: “My dad was my hero. Most kids idolise their dads as children, but I never grew out of that.”

It was not his father’s political career which he wanted to speak of, Eanna said, as “that wasn’t why he was my hero. My dad was, and is, my hero because even as a public figure, he still got up at 8am on cold Sunday mornings in November to stand on the side of a seven-a-side football pitch in Mount Merrion to support my under-10 soccer team.”

When rugby had replaced soccer as his consuming passion, his dad remained a presence on the sidelines, “even though I’m fairly certain he didn’t understand any of the rules”, Eanna added to laughter from those present.

Struggling to keep the emotion from his voice, Eanna then paid touching tribute to his mother.

“Over the past 14 months, mom’s unyielding love, loyalty, care and compassion during my dad’s illness has taught me more about life than I could have hoped to learn from a thousand college degrees.”

Shay Brennan said the family had been overwhelmed by the tributes in the days since his father’s death.

“His acclaimed public attributes were very much present in his family life. Maintaining harmony among six children took all of his political skill, and over the last few weeks, I have come to realise that one of his greatest successes in life was raising a family to be as close and supportive as we are to each other.

“Dad,” he added, addressing his late father directly, “together we will continue our journey through life guided by the values you worked so hard to instil in us. And until the day we are all together again as a family, goodbye my friend, and thank you.”

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