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Priest found dead beside rail track suffered heart attack

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EXPRESSED SYMPATHIES Coroner Patrick O’Connor.

Anton McNulty

A retired priest who was found dead near a railway line close to Ballyhaunis last January died as a result of a sudden heart attack, an inquest has heard.
Fr Michael Kenny (73) of Skeaghhard, Ballyhaunis, was found dead on January 17, 2021, by an Irish Rail employee who was checking the line approximately one mile from Ballyhaunis.
The inquest into Fr Kenny’s death took place yesterday in Swinford Courthouse. It heard he had been dead for a number of days before his body was discovered.
A Garda investigation confirmed that no collision with a train had taken place, and the postmortem found he died as a result of a heart attack.
Fr Kenny was the eldest of eight children and was ordained a priest in 1974. He served in a number of parishes in the Tuam Archdiocese, including Mulranny, Tooreen, Letterfrack and Kilconly, before retiring on September 1, 2018.
He lived in the family homestead in Ballyhaunis and had a big interest in GAA and horse racing, and he enjoyed hunting with his dog.

Heart disease
Kevin Keenan, a Patrol Ganger with Iarnrod Éireann, told the inquest he was walking the line at 12.40pm on January 17 when he came across a body close to an agricultural gate near the line. He said he knew Fr Kenny lived close by, but he had only met him twice.
A technical examination of the scene was carried out by gardaí and Fr Kenny’s body was brought to Mayo University Hospital for a postmortem.
Garda Ferghal O’Caheny said that CCTV footage of the crossing close to where the body was found showed the body at 9.58am on January 14.
Patricia Connelly, a sister of Fr Kenny, said she travelled from her home in Ballinasloe to Ballyhaunis on January 16 but could not get any answer at her brother’s home. She also tried to call him on his mobile without success and waited for half an hour before leaving.
Following the discovery of his body the following day, she travelled to Ballyhaunis and spoke to gardaí. She stated that her sister, Barbara, had spoken to her brother on the phone on January 12 and he was in good form.
Dr Fadel Bennani, Consultant Pathologist in Mayo University Hospital, stated that the postmortem found no fractures but discovered that one of Fr Kenny’s arteries was 90 percent blocked. He said the cause of death is due to ischemic heart disease due to occlusive coronary atheroma. Death, he said, would have been instant.
When asked about the appropriate date of death he said that due to the condition of the body he believed the date of death was January 14.
Mr Patrick O’Connor, Coroner for Mayo noted the Garda investigation ruled out any involvement with a train and recorded a verdict of death due to natural causes. He expressed his sympathy to Fr Kenny’s sister, Patricia, and the rest of the family on their sudden loss. He said that Fr Kenny was still a relatively young man and his death was a loss to his family but also to the communities where he served his ministry.