Friends and colleagues from the worlds of media, sport, and wider society turned out in huge numbers yesterday to pay homage to the much-loved RTÉ broadcaster who died on Tuesday.
It seemed like the entire staff of RTÉ had decamped across the Liffey to Colm’s local church, St Gabriel’s in Dollymount, to bid farewell to a presenter whose love of sport and broadcasting was infectious.
They were joined by hundreds of other mourners led by President Michael D Higgins as well as former taoisigh Liam Cosgrave and Brian Cowen.
“His illness broke our hearts,” Colm’s daughter Kate told a packed church in an emotional tribute at the end of the requiem Mass. She explained how her father’s diagnosis with motor neurone disease had seemed “like a huge injustice”.
However, she stressed his bravery and the love and courage of her mother Ann had got them through the last few years as he learnt to accept his condition.
In a simple, yet moving, eulogy, Kate thanked everyone for the thousands of goodwill messages her father had received since first being diagnosed with his terminal illness. In particular, she expressed her family’s gratitude for the extraordinary kindness, humanity, and decency shown by all his colleagues in RTÉ.
She laughed at how his love of meeting people often meant the journey between his car and a racetrack could be “absolutely endless”.
Earlier, the main concelebrant and family friend, Fr Jimmy Murray, recalled the bravery of Colm and his family in how they dealt with his diagnosis in Mar 2010 with “one of the cruellest and destructive conditions”.
Fr Murray, not a family relation, praised his late friend for highlighting the “little known but terrible disease” through an extraordinary documentary broadcast in Jan 2012 which had touched all who saw it.
The priest, who knew Colm from his childhood in Moate, reminded the congregation about his pride in his Westmeath background and his early career as a teacher before discovering his real talent as a broadcaster. The congregation broke into laughter on hearing he had met his wife, Ann, in the staff room of the school where they both taught while he was “studying form for the Kilbeggan races”.
In his homily, he remembered his friend as a great wordsmith with a unique voice whose mind and memory up to the end were “razor sharp”.
Special mention was also made to Colm’s late sister, Cathy, who also worked in RTÉ and died recently.
The chief mourners were Colm’s wife Ann, daughters Patricia and Kate, and sister Mary.
RTÉ figures in attendance included director general, Noel Curran, Miriam O’Callaghan, Joe Duffy, Seán O’Rourke, Sharon Ní Bheoláin, Tommie Gorman, Eileen Dunne, Aengus MacGrianna, Áine Lawlor, and David Davin Power, as well as the Après Match team.
Colleagues from the RTÉ sports department included Jimmy Magee, Marty Morrissey, Des Cahill, Jacqui Hurley, Joe Stack, Tony O’Donoghue, and Peter Collins. Former colleagues included Anne Doyle and Charlie Bird.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny was represented by his aide-de-camp Michael Treacy. CEO of Horse Racing Ireland Brian Kavanagh and former jockey Mick Kinane were also present. Sports stars included Brian O’Driscoll and Ken Doherty.
The Leonard Cohen song ‘Come Healing’ was sung at the end of the Mass as one of Colm’s last wishes. He was laid to rest at St Fintan’s Cemetery in Sutton.