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Friday 24 January 2020

'My beloved mother's legacy will be carried on next month with her first grandchild'

The funeral of Marian Finucane takes place at St Brigid's Church in Kill, County Kildare. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
The funeral of Marian Finucane takes place at St Brigid's Church in Kill, County Kildare. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

It was a dreary day in Kildare yesterday as RTE broadcaster Marian Finucane was laid to rest after dying suddenly last Thursday at the age of 69.

Situated only a few kilometres from the home in Kilteel, Co Kildare, that she shared with her husband John Clarke, the church of St Brigid's in Kill was packed as crowds gathered to say their final farewell.

For all her furious trail-blazing, she was a traditionalist at heart as she was remembered in a Catholic funeral mass that mixed Irish music and prayers.

The true tragedy to emerge from her death was the news she was due to retire soon, having decided at the start of last month that it was time to hang up her headphones after a long and illustrious career.

Shaken

She was also due to become a grandmother for the first time as her son Jack prepared to welcome a baby with his wife Jenny.

At 69, it was a time she should have been allowed to sit back and enjoy, along with all the fruits of her labour.

However, as her visibly- shaken husband John told mourners at the packed mass, it was not to be.

"Last December, she decided to retire and we were so excited. We would have more time to travel, more space, more books to read, more places to see. Sadly, that is not going to happen," he said.

The air of shock was palpable as mourners gathered to pay tribute to someone who had died so suddenly at the height of her career.

The chief celebrant was her cousin, Monsignor Ciaran O'Carroll, who said Marian was "such an icon of Irish broadcasting".

Jack Clarke, the son of Marian Finucane, helps carry her
coffin during her funeral in Co Kildare yesterday
Jack Clarke, the son of Marian Finucane, helps carry her coffin during her funeral in Co Kildare yesterday

She will be best remembered, he said, for her "outstanding journalistic abilities, her keen intellect, warmth, wit, thoughtfulness, compassion and kindness".

He spoke about how she advanced and shaped our nation thanks to her work as a "courageous broadcaster" and her determination to facilitate conversion "without fear or favour".

"She had great empathy and a sense of fairness and treated everyone with courtesy and respect," he said.

"A generous and determined woman, and a thoughtful and kind friend whose keen sense of humour enriched the lives of many.

"Her charity work at home and abroad was simply outstanding.

"Publicly, the nation has lost a skilled broadcaster. Privately, John has lost a soul partner, Jack a loving mother and Jenny a cherished mother-in-law.

Marian Finucane
Marian Finucane

"The great exuberant joy shared by our family and friends but a few short months ago at Jack and Jenny's wedding contrasts now with the sorrow and sadness we experience this day of Marian's funeral."

Marian lost her daughter Sinead to leukaemia at the age of eight, a bereavement she bore "with tremendous dignity" and which spurred her into supporting the hospice movement.

Laughing

Jack stood before the congregation near the end of the mass to deliver an emotional eulogy for his mother.

He said there were so many versions of her, but the woman he knew was a "shy lady" who was just as happy reading a book as laughing, joking and singing while debating the politics of the day or solving the world's problems at a dinner party.

She was a "classy lady with soul, in the truest sense" who had a "razor-sharp mind" and was patient, compassionate and great company.

One of her favourite songs was Revolution by The Beatles, and she had the courage to step up to life's challenges.

"Stand up straight, she'd say, and look them in the eye and take things from there, she'd say," Jack added.

"Her legacy to me is to travel, to learn, to live a life that's full of love, and her spirit will live on when the next generation of her family is born next month.

"Jenny and I will try to raise our child to have courage, curiosity and kindness, all virtues that Marian espoused."

Those at the funeral included Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, President Michael D Higgins' aide-de-camp Commandant Dorothy Donnell, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and former minister Pat Rabbitte.

Also there were Miriam O'Callaghan, Joe Duffy, Blathnaid Ni Chofaigh, RTE producer Michael Kealy, Ryan Tubridy, horse trainer Ted Walsh, Dave Fanning and Claire Byrne.

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