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Ballinrobe mourns the late Mary O’Neill


SADLY MISSED The late Mary O’Neill

Funeral of well-known teacher and publican to take place tomorrow

ONE of the best known residents of the south Mayo area, Mary O’Neill, Creagh Road, Ballinrobe, died on Saturday last, aged 77.
Mary was wife of the late Art O’Neill, a well-known publican in Ballinrobe, who died in 2006. Mary was herself a highly respected secondary school teacher, having taught in Coláiste Muire in Tourmakeady for 21 years, before she retired in 1998. Her family still run the public house known as ‘Art’s’ at the top of High Street in Ballinrobe.
A committed member of the Fine Gael party, Mary also had a deep love of politics and built up enduring friendships with many leading political figures down through the years. In 1979, she ran for election to Mayo County Council.
Local Fine Gael councillor Michael Burke said Mary was one of the party’s most prominent supporters in the county and she ran for election in 1979 when not many women had previously put their name on a ballot paper.
“Mary was very politically astute and sharp and would always be very tuned in to the numbers and the tallies around election time. She was a very loyal member of the Ballinrobe branch of Fine Gael and served in many different roles down through the year. Mary was a very proud woman when Enda Kenny became Taoiseach and when Michael Ring became a Minister and she will be deeply missed by all Fine Gael members in the region.
“She was also very committed to her work and her family, she left a great legacy behind her in Coláiste Muire in Tourmakeady and she and Art would have gotten to know thousands of people through their popular public house in Ballinrobe. She was a a great community activist in Ballinrobe and she will be sorely missed,” said Cllr Burke.
Mary also had a great interest in sport and her husband Art was a prominent player for Ballinrobe for many years, and also wore the Mayo jersey at under-age and senior levels.
He lined out on the team that won the 1958 Mayo Junior Football Championship.
A number of their children played men’s and ladies football for Ballinrobe, and her nephew, Declan Corcoran, is the current club chairperson.
The O’Neill family also have long been associated with the pub trade in Ballinrobe, and their premises, Art’s, at the top of Bridge Street was a well-known ‘sports house’.
The tradition continues now next door where Mary’s son Shane and his wife Geraldine operate a bar – also known as Art O’Neill’s. Mary’s son Owen Roe is heavily involved in the Ballinrobe GAA club as a coach and fund-raiser and the club paid a warm tribute to Mary on their club website.

Teacher by profession
Mary was also well-known throughout south and west Mayo as an English teacher, having taught in the Gaeltacht in Tourmakeady from 1967 to 1998.
Editor of The Mayo News, Michael Duffy, was a student of Mary for six years in Coláiste Muire and is proud to say she had a strong influence on his chosen career.
“I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Bean Uí Néill, as Mary was known to all her pupils in Tourmakeady. From a young age, I was always interested in writing but it wasn’t until I went to secondary school in Coláiste Muire, that I started to think that I could actually make a living out of writing. Mary was always so encouraging and at a time when a lot of students were shying away from taking Honours English, she always was of the opinion that if a student had their work done ahead of the exams, it would be reflected in the marks they would receive.
“I was lucky enough to be able to maintain a friendship with Mary even after she retired as a teacher, and she was a member of a group who travelled with The Mayo News to the Cheltenham horseracing festival back in the late noughties. She travelled with her brother Mark and a few others from Ballinrobe and we had a great time. Mary was great company and I’m sure her family and her wide circle of friends will miss her greatly. May she rest in peace.”
Mary was predeceased by her husband Art and is survived by sons Shane, Owen Roe and Art Rory; daughters Joni, Keelin and Nicola; brother Mark; sons-in-law Michael Walsh, Seamus O’Toole, Fergal Morahan; daughters-in-law, Geraldine and Maria; grandchildren; brother-in-law Hugh Red Hugh (USA); sisters-in-law, Philomena, Gertrude (USA); nephews; nieces; relatives; neighbours and friends.
Her remains will repose at her residence today Tuesday, July 30, from 4pm to 8pm. Funeral Mass will take place tomorrow, Wednesday at 1 pm, in St Mary’s Church, Ballinrobe, with burial immediately afterwards in the New Cemetery.