THE MURDER of a County Limerick man in broad daylight has sent shockwaves through a rural community, mourners heard at the funeral Mass of the father-of-one this Wednesday.
Over 200 bikers who lined pew after pew in the Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Murroe listened as Fr Tom Ryan, a close friend of the murder victim, called for “peace and forgiveness” following the brutal slaying of Andrew O’Donoghue on Saturday afternoon.
“Move away from the old regime of an eye for an eye, or a tooth for a tooth,” Fr Ryan said.
“Move away from seeking revenge and getting even, and be able to forgive, be able to show patience and tolerance. This is a message that must go out loud and clear at this time – unless this message is acted upon dreadful things will continue to happen.”
Just before 11.30 bikers from all over the country led Mr O’Donoghue’s coffin from the Road Tramps Clubhouse – just yards from where he was gunned down, and lay in repose overnight – to the church in Murroe.
After the hearse carrying the remains of the 51-year-old, pulled up outside the church, the bikers, on board Harley-Davidsons and Triumph motorcycles conducted a five minute procession through the village’s main street.
While many stared straight ahead – their eyes screened by black shades – others gave a slow, thoughtful glance at the Mexican pine coffin which now carried the remains of their “brother”.
Large badges on the back of their leather jackets indicated their club affiliation. There were members of the Road Tramps MC, The Vikings, the Freewheelers and the Devils Disciples MC.
Despite their high-spec engines, there was no brash revving, just a comforting humming which drifted in and out as the motorcycles lined up in Crokers yard. Mr O’Donoghue’s coffin was carried into the church by six biker friends to a haunting rendition of Gary Moore’s bittersweet guitar soliloquy Parisienne Walkways from the 1978 album Back on the Streets.
Fr Ryan recalled how he sat down to watch the news on Saturday evening and was alerted to the breaking news with mention of Murroe. “I felt this must be a mistake or I must be having a nightmare,” he said. “This could not be happening in a quiet, peaceful rural place like Murroe.”
Side aisles were reserved for young pupils of Murroe National School – many of the young girls wept at the thought of what their classmate, Mr O’Donoghue’s daughter Ava, 11, must be going through. The tragically bereaved child, dressed in a small black leather jacket, wiped her tears away with a tissue as Fr Ryan spoke of the deep love, Mr O’Donoghue had for her and his partner Kate, who was sat beside her.
Fr Ryan condemned the brutal slaying, and said a rise in gun murders meant that “the sad thing about life today is that we have become accustomed to this kind of bad news.”
He recalled visited Mr O’Donoghue and his family last Christmas when, among other things, he spoke about his new stove in his house. “The next evening Andrew arrived with blocks of timber and a big box of matches - the long ones - he was trying to make sure that this old priest didn’t set himself on fire trying to light the stove,” he smiled.
During the offertory procession, young Ava carried her father’s black motor helmet to the altar.
At the end of the Mass, Mr O’Donoghue’s brother Peter paid tribute to those who had played a special part in his brother’s life, and then to those who had assisted him in his final moments both at the scene of the crime and at University Hospital Limerick where he took his last breath. “His home was Murroe and the Road Tramps was his life. The truth is very powerful and will always prevail,” said Peter.
“Andrew’s sense of duty, and the hopes for his family, and the club will be his legacy. He was a gentleman. Thank you,” he concluded as spontaneous applause erupted around the church.
In the churchyard under the midday sun locals mingled with bikers as they waited for the coffin carrying Mr O’Donoghue to be escorted outside. There was a discreet garda presence with plainclothes detectives watching from a respectable distance. Then, little by little, the heavy silence which hung in the mid-summer air was all but drowned out. In its place was the sound from a cacophony of motorcycle engines in the distance signalling what was to be the start of Mr O’Donoghue’s final journey.