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Westport bids farewell to Martin Keane


The remains of Martin Keane are carried by staff and colleagues from the Westport Hotel Group as family and friends followed the cortege up Bridge Street on its way to Drummin graveyard for burial on Monday afternoon. Pic: Conor McKeown

Community urged to keep Martin Keane’s legacy alive

Michael Gallagher

On Monday afternoon the bustling town of Westport gave a royal send off to the man who prided himself on being the most ordinary of all. Martin Keane was many things to many people, and the throngs who packed into St Mary’s Church, lined the streets and followed his coffin up the centre of the town were testament to the hugely positive influence the community worker had on life by Clew Bay.
“He was from no political party, he was from no single sporting entity, he was from Westport – Westport was his parish, and Westport was in his heart,” Fr Charlie McDonnell told the packed congregation at Martin’s funeral Mass.
The well-known priest was right. Martin, who died aged 71, did indeed have Westport in his heart, but the feeling was mutual and the town will forever hold dear the memory of an ordinary man who did extraordinary things.
On Monday afternoon, tears fell like rain as lone piper Chris McNally slowly marched up Bridge Street and numerous groups took turns to carry the coffin of the sportsman, former town cathaoirleach, community worker, friend and neighbour on his last journey through the middle of the town.
Martin Keane had left his own unique mark on so many, and his sudden, peaceful passing on Thursday robbed the community of his endearing presence.

‘Passion and dedication’
“We will miss him terribly,” Cllr Brendan Mulroy stated in a well-received eulogy before Mass began.
“He was a once-in-a-lifetime figure, a man who had compassion and love in abundance and left no stone unturned in his pursuit of making the world a better place.
“There are 15,000 people in Westport and its hinterland, and I can safely say Martin knew every family and every person by name. His community work needs no explanation. Martin touched the lives of every person here today and anyone could be up here giving this eulogy.
“The elderly and most vulnerable in the community were the biggest single concern Martin had. He constantly worked behind the scenes to ensure no child, mother or father went without food. His passion and dedication in this area was unparalleled, and he wanted no attention or praise for it.”

‘A true star’
However, on Monday, Martin Keane got the praise he deserved for a well-lived life. Fr Charlie McDonnell explained how the boy born in Drummin in 1950 worked in various hotels in the town during his youth before spending 25 wonderful years in Allergan Pharmaceuticals and then taking up employment in The Plaza Hotel in the middle of the town.
He talked about Martin’s tireless work with youth, sporting clubs, charities and anyone who needed help. He spoke about the fun and the devilment Martin carried with him and the deep love he had for his sister, Marie, his nieces Eileen and Deirdre, and his nephews, John, Paul and Martin, and Fr Charlie talked about Martin’s goodness and his ability to rise from adversity.
“Martin rose and brought others with him. Martin rose to make this a better place. He was full of goodness and respect and was always willing to give people a chance. He gave tirelessly to others and never turned anyone away.
“We have lost a big man, we have lost a man like no other, we have lost a man we thought was going to live forever. Now everyone is wondering how we will replace him and nobody will ever do that, but we must all step forward and take responsibility for keeping his legacy alive.
“He had a way of making one feel special. You felt you were somebody when you were in Martin Keane’s presence. He told everyone how great they were, and that’s not the way things are usually done in a world where negativity reigns. Martin looked at the person and told them not only were they a star, they were a superstar.
“Today, I want to say that Martin Keane was a true star, a true superstar and we were blessed to have him in our presence.”