Ireland bids farewell to Haughey 'legend and statesman'

Former Taoiseach Charles Haughey was today hailed a legend, statesman and political leader of peerless acumen by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

Former Taoiseach Charles Haughey was today hailed a legend, statesman and political leader of peerless acumen by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

“He was a legend and a man,” Mr Ahern told mourners in an oration at the controversial politician’s graveside following a state funeral.

Dignitaries and political leaders from both sides of the Irish border joined high-ranking members of the judiciary and Defence Forces for Funeral Mass in the church of at Our Lady of Consolation in Donnycarney.

President Mary McAleese, billionaire financier Dermot Desmond and Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams were among the congregation, while hundreds of mourners lined the streets of north Dublin for the occasion.

The 80-year-old died on Tuesday at home in Kinsealy after a long battle with cancer. His wife, Maureen, daughter, Eimear and sons, Conor, Ciaran and Fianna Fail TD Sean were at his bedside.

The Requiem Mass, which lasted just over two hours, was broadcast live on national television and two large screens outside relayed the event to those who could not be accommodated in the 2,000-seat church.

It was celebrated by Mr Haughey’s brother, Eoghan, assisted by the Archbishop of Dublin, Reverend Diarmuid Martin, and Monsignor Joe Quinn, the parish priest of Knock.

“We know him as a human being with all that implies. We, each of us, also live every day, with all that he achieved for Ireland,” Mr Ahern said at the graveside.

“His life was an extraordinary journey.”

The Taoiseach admitted Mr Haughey’s 35-year political career had at times been controversial but he insisted he was privileged to have been asked to pay tribute to him.

“For myself, I speak of Charles Haughey as a friend, a colleague, a political leader of peerless acumen and commanding talent,” he said.

Mr Ahern said history would judge Mr Haughey well.

“Charles Haughey brought to the office of Taoiseach a wide array of talents and skills, perhaps unmatched in the modern era.”

When Mr Haughey first became Taoiseach in 1979 he had three overarching objectives, said Mr Ahern: lasting peace on the island, to make the country a respected and integral member of the European Union, and to end the economic instability and mass unemployment which had beset the country for centuries.

“As one of Mr Haughey’s successors as Taoiseach I want to acknowledge that he left a huge legacy of lasting achievement which this generation has based its own progress upon,” he added.

Naval Service marksmen fired three volleys of shots over the grave after Mr Ahern completed his graveside oration. The Last Post was then played by three buglers and drummers.

As Mr Haughey’s coffin was lowered into the grave, the skies opened up and rain began to fall on the mourners gathered at graveside.

The funeral cortege had earlier slowly wound its way through the streets of north Dublin from the Church of Our Lady of Consolation in Donnycarney to St Fintan’s Cemetery in Sutton.

There will not be his like again, Mr Haughey’s brother had told mourners at the state funeral.

Delivering his homily, Fr Eoghan Haughey, likened the one-time Fianna Fáil leader to a huge wooden sculpture of Irish hero, Cuchulain, on the front lawn of the former Taoiseach's home, Abbeville.

“And running the full length of the statue, there’s what looks like a deep wound. It’s a crack in the wood, like an old battle scar,” he said.

“CJ had come through many battles but there were no scars – the wounds had healed. There was no bitterness, thank God, no self-pity.”

Mr Haughey’s son, Sean, told mourners that historians will cast Charles Haughey in a much more positive light than his media critics.

Sean Haughey, himself a TD in his father’s former constituency, used his reflection at the Funeral Mass to restore the reputation of the ex-Fianna Fail leader’s controversial public life.

The speech was greeted with warm applause throughout by mourners.

“In recent years his critics in the media have dominated the debate about my father. I’ve absolutely no doubt that historians will be a lot more positive about my father’s legacy,” he said.

“It is clear to me too, that the people as a whole always had a much more balanced view of his political life.”

A photograph of Mr Haughey and his wife on their wedding day hung in the foyer of the church as the service took place.

Fr Haughey told mourners the former Taoiseach had directed that his funeral be held in the heart of his old constituency, near where he grew up, as he battled the cancer that would eventually claim his life.

Members of Mr Haughey’s family, including his son, Ciaran, and old friends such as his former political adviser, PJ Mara, read prayers during the ceremony.

The Seamus Heaney poem The Given Note was read by Aine Ui Laoithe, while renowned musicians Liam O’Flynn and Finbar Furey played traditional Irish laments.

Mr Haughey’s coffin was then carried from the church by members of the Defence Forces and placed in a hearse, flanked by representatives of the Naval Service signifying Mr Haughey’s love of the sea.

The funeral cortege then made its last slow journey to St Fintan’s Cemetery accompanied by the applause of onlookers.

Mr Haughey, who served as Taoiseach for three separate periods between 1979 and 1992, was the most controversial politician in the history of the Irish Republic.

In recent years his political legacy has been overshadowed by revelations at state tribunals that he received millions in donations from wealthy businessmen during his 35-year political career. It also emerged he had conducted a long extra-marital affair.

He was sacked as a government minister but cleared of criminal charges of plotting to smuggle guns into the North when violence first flared on the streets of Belfast and Derry more than 35 years ago in a controversy which almost ended his early career.

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