Social justice campaigner Fr Peter McVerry said the state’s childcare system had failed to protect Daniel, whose body was found dumped in a ditch in Rathfeigh, Co Meath, on May 13, almost three months after he was reported missing.
However, Fr McVerry said the death of the 17-year-old youth, while in the care of the Health Service Executive, had created a momentum for change and reform of the childcare system.
In a hard-hitting homily, he criticised the Government over its failure to provide a childcare system which catered for the needs of vulnerable children.
Fr McVerry contrasted the lack of funding for childcare services with the Government’s willingness to provide a bailout for financial institutions. “A properly functioning childcare system will be expensive, but if the failed banks can be given a blank cheque, then a failed childcare system is no less important.
“Now when the Government tells us that they don’t have the money, we know what that means – it means in Government-speak that it’s not important enough.”
The priest told several hundred mourners at the Church of the Annunciation in Finglas West that they all had a responsibility to ensure momentum for change was maintained to ensure no child is at risk in future.
Fr McVerry said the childcare system would not require 200, but 1,200 extra social workers to bring the Republic’s system up to the level that exists in the North.
“Daniel was still a child. He should not have died,” he said.
“We can’t ignore this morning the fact that a major contributing factor to Daniel’s death was the neglect of the State. The failure of a dysfunctional and under-resourced childcare system to provide Daniel with a safe and secure place to live, where his needs could be addressed by a social and health system, resulted in his early death.”
He offered sympathy to Daniel’s extended family, in particular to his brother, Edward, who is serving a prison sentenced and was denied permission by the Irish Prison Service to attend yesterday’s funeral. There were also special prayers for Daniel’s deceased parents, Leo and Martina.
On behalf of the McAnaspie family, he thanked local gardaí and people who took part in searches for Daniel.
At the end of the ceremony, Daniel’s aunt, Pamela Higginbotham read out a letter on behalf of his younger brother, Keith, who questioned why his big brother had been taken away. Keith wrote: “You are in a much better place now where all your problems are gone away. But remember we’ll meet on the other side one sweet day. Love you always.”
Fighting back tears, Daniel’s sister, Nikita, recalled happy memories of their family together and how “Dano” always made everyone laugh as she recounted some of her brother’s various pranks.
She also joked how her younger brother couldn’t sing or rap. “You’re not Tupac,” she smiled. Nikita also told the congregation that Daniel could rest easy in heaven, as “justice will be served.”
Gardaí investigating Daniel’s death questioned a number of suspects for his murder, but they were released without charge.
Among mourners at yesterday’s funeral were local Labour TD Róisín Shortall, Fianna Fáil Senator Mary White and the McAnaspie family solicitor, Michael Finucane.
Daniel’s coffin was transported by a horse-drawn hearse to Glasnevin Cemetery for burial.