'My father was my hero,' says tearful Michael Flatley
LORD of the Dance Michael Flatley fought back tears as he paid an emotional funeral tribute to his father who he said symbolised the success story of so many Irish emigrants in the US.
The dancer hailed his father, Michael James Flatley (88), as his "hero" and a hard-working family man "who always had a smile and a kind word for everyone."
The father of five died from heart failure in Chicago in the US on March 13 but wanted to be buried back in his native Ireland.
Michael Flatley will now dedicate his two final Irish stage performances tomorrow and on Saturday with Lord of the Dance - Dangerous Games in Dublin's 3Arena to his late father.
The shows will bring the curtain down on the career of the world-famous dancer who sprang to fame 20 years ago thanks to Riverdance and Lord of the Dance in the same venue, the old Point Depot.
The Requiem Mass in Glynn/St Mullins, Co Carlow proved a who's who of the Irish entertainment industry.
The mourners were led by Mr Flatley's wife, Eilish (79), his sons, Michael and Patrick, and daughters Liza, Thoma and Annie.
The mourners also included Matt Molloy of The Chieftains, Michael Flatley's former partner Lisa Murphy, singer-songwriter Ger Fahy, music promoter, Peter Aiken, Munster and New Zealand rugby star, Doug Howlett, golfer Brian Shaw and Dublin businessman, Dave Egan.
The dancer paid an emotional tribute to his father before dedicating a special flute solo to his memory.
"I love my father and my father was my hero. He was a big, strong Irishman who was so proud of where he came from," he said.
"He left Sligo in 1947 with nothing but an inexorable drive and determination to succeed in the US, the new world."
The dancer said his parents met in the US - and enjoyed "a love affair that lasted 60 years."
"My father was a great big mountain of a man - and he was a workaholic.
"He was the hardest working man that ever left Ireland," he said.
The dancer said his father showed incredible courage in his final days.
"He lived with dignity and he died with dignity," he added.
On his last visit to see his father in Chicago, the 88-year-old had insisted on getting dressed and out of his sick bed so he could have a final Irish whiskey with his two sons.
"My father finished that shot of John Jameson. Like everything else in his life, he finished what he had started. His family were everything to him. He also loved Ireland - and I think he was very happy when I moved back to Ireland and rebuilt Castlehyde (the dancer's €30m 18th Century mansion in north Cork).
"Some of the happiest memories of my life were sitting shoulder to shoulder with Pat and Dad at the bar," he added.