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An Taoiseach pays moving tribute to his mother

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A son above all


Neill O’Neill


THE final word on a day of celebration of the life of Eithne Kenny fell to her son Enda, who told the capacity crowd in the Church of The Holy Rosary in Castlebar yesterday, that his was a ‘wonderful mother, who epitomised her generation with traits of respect, love, loyalty, and dedication’.
With the figureheads of Irish politics past and present packed into the front pews, An Taoiseach made a speech like no other he has ever had to make in his life.
“Our mother lived a full life and experienced much in her 93 years,” he said. “President Clinton said recently in Dublin that the life stories of all people over 80 years-of-age should be written down as they would help others have the tenacity to get through adversity, austerity and tragedy. My mother had respect and a great level of understanding, this came from facing the Atlantic in her youth, she understood nature’s generosity and kindness but also the primordial savagery it displays when it strikes.”
Mr Kenny spoke of his mother and father meeting in Oughterard many decades ago, and of her stitching his number on the back of gaelic jerseys before matches. “It was a roller-coaster with her all these years, and she always gave out about Mayo being unable to replicate their GAA glories of the early fifties.” He said that she was never afraid to use things to her advantage and added that his family were thankful to have had their mother in their lives for so long. “Then, suddenly, she is gone” he said, “and all the memories and pictures come flooding back through the mind.”
An Taoiseach thanked the many people in attendance, particularly those who had sympathised with his family and those who had shown kindness to his mother in her final years, including the staff and medics at Mayo General Hospital and in the Claremont Nursing Home in Claremorris, those in St. Attracta’s in Charlestown and also in Cuan Caitriona in Castlebar.
He also paid tribute to Dr Richard Tobin Sr, whom he said had gone out of his way on many occasions, the priests - in particular Canon John Cosgrove, PP Castlebar, and Fr Pat Donnellan, PP Islandeady, the Gardaí, Civil Defence, Order of Malta Personnel, those who provided the guards of honour and the choir who sang so beautifully in the church.
“I note the presence here today of Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin, who went through his own tragedy recently when he lost a child,” the Taoiseach said, before also noting the attendance of former Taoisighi Bertie Ahern and John Bruton, Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, former President Mary McAleese and her husband Martin, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Owen Paterson and British Ambassador to the Republic, Julian King. President Michael D. Higgins had sympathised with the family on Sunday night along with his wife, the Taoiseach noted, and in a lighthearted moment he also acknowledged the presence of most of his Cabinet in the front rows, whom he said were in the church ‘because they know what’s good for them.’
Mr Kenny then went on to share some anecdotes and personal memories from his mother’s long life, including one of an old neighbour who got more than he bargained for when he ate a full apple tart she had baked, not knowing it was specifically for the children for Halloween, and was full of charms and other strange objects they were to find in every slice.

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