Hundreds of mourners tonight paid their respects to former President Dr Patrick Hillery whose remains were removed to Dublin’s Pro-Cathedral for tomorrow’s state funeral.
Family and friends were joined by outgoing Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, President Mary McAleese, members of the Cabinet and Opposition during a short service.
It was led by the Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin Reverend Fiachra O’Ceallaigh and concelebrated by Dr Hillery’s nephew, Fr Des Hillery, who had returned from missionary work in Peru.
Bishop O’Ceallaigh, a friend of Dr Hillery since the 1950s, paid tribute to the former President describing him as a man of vision and talent.
“Having known Paddy Hillery for almost 57 years I know the last thing he would want would be a eulogy.
“I also know that his family felt the same.
“What I am about to say is not a eulogy but a tribute on behalf of all Clare people.
“Paddy was a serious man, a man who realised the gifts and talents bestowed on him,” he said.
Shortly after 4pm Dr Hillery’s coffin, draped in the Tricolour, was carried into the cathedral by officers from the 2nd Eastern Brigade.
Prayers were offered by Bishop O’Ceallaigh and a reading was performed by Dr Martin McAleese after which mourners paid their respects to Dr Hillery’s wife Maeve and family members.
Also in attendance was Labour leader Eamon Gilmore, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, Green Party leader John Gormley, Taoiseach-in-waiting Brian Cowen, Progressive Democrats leader Mary Harney and Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghin O Caolain.
SDLP leader Mark Durkan and Former Taoisigh Garret FitzGerald and Albert Reynolds were also present.
Following the service members of the public, many of whom queued outside the cathedral for hours, were allowed to pay their respects and file past the coffin.
“He was a great man. I knew him because my uncle was one of his bodyguards,” said Tracey Flaherty.
“I got the chance to meet him on a few occasions and just three years ago at the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis.”
Claire Sethright, from Co Clare, said Dr Hillery was her family doctor before he became President.
“He was a wonderful man, just lovely. I want to be here today,” she said.
“I hope to be here tomorrow, I may not get in [to the cathedral], but I I’ll be here,” she said.
Dr Hillery, who held the presidency for two terms, died on Saturday aged 84.
His Funeral Mass will take place at noon after which the cortege will travel to St Fintan’s Cemetery, Sutton, where he will be buried with his daughter Vivienne who died in 1987.
At the request of Dr Hillery’s widow Maeve and their son Dr John Hillery, Tánaiste Brian Cowen – the Taoiseach-in-waiting – will deliver the graveside oration.
Dr Hillery, who was at the cutting edge of politics for more than 40 years, held his Presidency for two terms from 1976 to 1990.
A medical doctor, he was persuaded to stand for Fianna Fáil in 1952 and became a TD for his home county for more than 20 years.
As a government minister, he held a number of posts including education, industry and commerce, labour and external affairs.
Dr Hillery became Ireland’s first European Commissioner in 1973, where he served until he was inaugurated as President of Ireland.