An Taoiseach Enda Kenny carries the coffin of his mother Eithne from the Church of the Holy Rosary in Castlebar yesterday, assisted by his brothers John and Henry and his nephew, Henry Jnr. Thousands flocked to the county town on Sunday and Monday to pay tribute to Mrs Kenny, who was 93 years of age.
Thousands pay respects after death of Taoiseach’s mother
THEY came in their thousands to pay respect to her loved ones, and though rain berated the street outside all morning long, the Church of The Holy Rosary in Castlebar was alive with the kind of celebration of life that the family of the late Eithne Kenny had longed for.
Mrs Kenny (nee Mc Ginley) from Derrycoosh, Islandeady, passed away last Saturday in Mayo General Hospital in her ninety-fourth year. However, emotional as the occasion was on her sons John, Henry, Enda and Kieran, daughter Marie and their families, this was to be no time for lamenting her sad passing. At the end of his address to the congregation, her son, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, asked those gathered not to applaud his words, but to “applaud the mothers of Ireland, those gone and those here, and to draw on their strengths as you face the challenges of life”.
Earlier, Chief Celebrant of the funeral Mass, Fr Pat Donnellan, PP Islandeady, told the congregation that like all good mothers, Eithne Kenny loved all her children equally, and her grandchildren and extended family.
“She stood for good old-fashioned family values, like faith, loyalty and love,” he said, “and that sense of loss that is in the tears of her children and grandchildren is testimony to the love and care that she blessed you with.
“Grief is the price we pay for love and please God everything she held sacred, and the values she cherished, will live on in you who knew her best and loved her most,” he continued. “Having prayed with her many times in her home in Derrycoosh, in Cuan Catriona and in Castlebar Hospital, my abiding memory is of a calm serene lady, always finishing with words of thanks. With her lovely soft Donegal accent she would say: ‘you’re very good’.”
In his homily, Fr Donnellan outlined Eithne Kenny’s life to the congregation.
“Mary Eithne McGinley was born on February 12 1918 in Glencolmcille, Co Donegal. She had two brothers, Andrew and John Joseph, but John Joseph died at the age of five. Her mother died when she was eight and her father James remarried Myra Crowley. James and Myra had six other children. Mary Eithne became a teacher of home economics and was teaching in Oughterard when she met her future husband, Henry Kenny a national school teacher in Dhoire Mhór-Iata (Derryvoreada, Co Galway). Henry and Eithne married and had eight children: John, Henry, Enda, Kieran, Maria and triplet daughters, Bridget, Henrietta and Margaret, who died in infancy.
The family moved to Derrycoosh, Islandeady - three miles from Castlebar - where Henry took up a teaching position in Leitir NS. Henry was also elected to Dáil Éireaann in 1954 and Eithne resigned her teaching position to look after her family. For the next 21 years she acted as a mother to their children and as Henry’s political secretary, until his death on September 25 1975.
Fr Donnellan further elaborated, “Eithne’s son Enda was elected to his father’s seat in November 1975 and he stayed as her last companion in Derrycoosh until his own marriage in 1992. An independent woman who enjoyed such simple pleasures as driving her own car, Eithne lived in the family home until her ninetieth birthday. She then moved into Claremont Nursing Home in Claremorris, followed by St. Attracta’s in Charlestown and finally Cuan Caitriona in Castlebar nearly two years ago.”
In other words of sympathy at the weekend, Archbishop of Tuam, Dr Michael Neary, called Eithne Kenny a very dignified and gracious lady. “Although her family, her late husband Henry and her sons An Taoiseach Enda and Councillor Henry have been in public life all these years, Eithne herself was a very private person and a woman of deep faith,” he said.
Father Donnellan said that Eithne Kenny would often give him little clippings of short, wise sayings or quotes, and would suggest, ‘with a glint in her eye’, that they might be useful for a sermon sometime.
“I still have this one, and I mentioned it previously, on last Ash Wednesday, a significant day many will remember in Dáil Éireann (the day Enda became Taoiseach): “who you are is God’s gift to you, what you become is your gift to God”.
“Eithne Kenny gave generously of her many gifts in the service of God, family and country and may she reap the reward of the faithful servant, and now be reunited with her husband Henry and her angel children, and all her family and friends who have gone before her,” he concluded.
Eithne Kenny’s funeral Mass was co-celebrated by Monsignor Joe Quinn, PP Knock, Fr JJ Doherty, CC Glencolmcille, Fr Brendan Hoban, Castlebar, Fr Martin O’Keefe, CC Glenisland, Fr Peter Quinn, Ballina, Fr Karl Burns, CC Westport, Fr Jack Garvey, PP Carnacon, Fr Peter Waldron, PP Keelogues, Fr Michéal Mac Gréil, S.J Westport and Reverend Val Rogers, Westport, representing The Church of Ireland. Father Michael Farragher acted as master of ceremonies and Canon John Cosgrove, PP Castlebar, acted as chaplain to the President’s aide-de-camp, Colonel Michael McMahon.
The two gifts brought to the altar during Eithne Kenny’s funeral Mass were a Donegal flag and a Mayo flag. Her son Kieran told the congregation that these represented her different lives and family, before and after marriage. The Donegal flag was the same one she flew when her native county won the All-Ireland Senior Football Champinoship for the first time in 1992. The man who lifted the Sam McGuire cup that day - Anthony Molloy - attended her funeral Mass. The much older looking Mayo flag, Kieran said, was the same one that had flown over the Kenny homestead on Main Street in Castlebar in 1936, when the team in which his late father Henry Kenny had played in midfield, won that same cup.
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An Taoiseach pays moving tribute to his mother