Fr Niall Coghlan also slammed as cowards the killers of Mr Byrne, who was shot dead 11 days ago, and those who carried out the reprisal killing of Eddie Hutch three days later, saying their actions came from the “depth of evil”.
He challenged mourners to speak up for peace and warned that the tit-for-tat revenge attacks amounted to “another eye for another eye until everyone’s blind”.
Fr Coghlan’s remarks came in a strongly worded homily delivered to a packed Church of St Nicholas of Myra on Dublin’s Francis St, where a heavy presence of armed gardaí monitored proceedings.
Among the congregation were known criminals, convicted members of local gangs, and members of the family of Spain-based drugs boss Christy Kinahan.
They included his sons Christy Jr and Daniel, who it is believed was the intended target at the boxing event in the Regency Hotel where Mr Byrne, a major player in the Kinahan operation, was shot dead in a revenge attack for the murder of Gary Hutch, nephew of major crime figure Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch, in Spain last year.
Fr Coghlan said father-of-two Mr Byrne, 33, had been murdered in cold blood by someone “consumed with a fierce hatred that plunges you into the depth of evil”.
“It doesn’t take much courage to attack a defenceless person with weapons of destruction,” he said.
“What courage is there to walk into a hotel and blast a man to death when he can not defend himself, or indeed to walk into a man’s home and do the same thing?” he added, referring to the follow-up murder of Eddie Hutch by a four-man gang which burst into his home last week.
“It’s not courageous. What is courageous is someone willing to put their head above the parapet and call for an end to this despicable destruction of human life.
“You might be a lonely voice in your own world but, for the people of Dublin south and north inner cities who have suffered greatly at your hands, and not just by recent violence either, the wonderful people of our inner city, you will be a hero because you will bring peace and an end to the policy of violence, death, revenge, and tit for tat.”
Fr Coghlan warned those who carried out the killings were reducing themselves to being the “next target for another murder”.
“It keeps going on until families are destroyed and rendered asunder and grief is piled on grief,” he said.
His warning came as research showed that more than two thirds of people being intimidated by gangs over drug debts do not report the crime to gardaí.
And the vast majority of victims, almost three quarters, said they did not go to the gardaí for “fear of reprisal”.
Trinity College criminologist Johnny Connolly, who conducted the study on behalf of Citywide Drugs Crisis Campaign, said drug-related intimidation was “causing immense distress in many communities”, but said it was “largely goes unreported and unrecorded officially”.
The study, which is being published today, reveals the extent of gang intimidation and damage of communities often over modest debts as small as €500.
The report found that “a small but significant” number of people with debts were being forced to sell drugs or to hold onto them, or to weapons.
“This research represents a novel approach to gathering data on a hidden harm that is causing immense distress in many communities, but that largely goes unreported and unrecorded officially,” said Dr Connolly, a visiting research fellow in the TCD School of Social Policy.
The outcry over the brazen nature of the recent killings and the fear of further reprisals saw the Government respond by announcing extra resources for Garda overtime and additional armed units for Dublin.
A three-day security operation preceded Mr Byrne’s funeral, with gardaí maintaining armed checkpoints around the south inner city and shutting down the church for explosives’ sweeps before and after the ceremonies.
While yesterday’s formalities went off peacefully, attention immediately turned to the funeral of Eddie Hutch, which is expected to take place at the end of this week with similarly tight security arrangements being put in place.