Rory Kiely's family and friends bring the coffin from the church PICTURE: Michael Cowhey
HUNDREDS of people have attended the funeral of former Seanad cathaoirleach and ‘legendary’ Limerick GAA figure Rory Kiely in Feenagh.
Rory Kiely served as GAA County Board chairman for over a decade, spanning the 1970s. The Fianna Fáil politician became cathaoirleach in the Seanad for five years, from 2002 to 2007.
Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen was among those who attended the funeral Mass in St Ita’s church, Feenagh, this Saturday. Mr Cowen delivered a graveside oration afterwards at Kilmeedy Cemetery.
John Cregan, current chairman of Limerick County Board, said that “over the last four days, many hundreds have called to Rory’s home, to his removal, and here today to Rory’s native Feenagh, to pay their respects to a wonderful gentleman who served in many roles in the GAA and politics.
“He is fondly remembered.”
Current leader of Fianna Fáil, Michael Martin, was at the midday Mass. And other political figures were also in attendance, including former government ministers Brendan Daly and Gerry Collins, former TDs Michael Finucane, Ned O’Keeffe, and Senator Denis O’Donovan, current Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann.
Crowds also attended the late Mr Kiely’s reposal on Friday evening, at O'Grady's Funeral Home, Ballingarry.
Rory is survived by his sons Vincent and Roderick and daughters Aileen and Mairéad. His wife passed away in 2007. Roderick paid tribute to their father during the Mass.
“His interest in politics started at an early stage. He has always been a massive support to people. He had a brilliant memory and ability to trace people.
“He loved company and meeting new friends. My earliest memories involve travelling up and down the country to matches, and no matter where we were, we would call in to see someone. He always knew people.
“Everyone would always say to us: ‘How is Rory?’
“It will be strange not to hear those words again.”
The son explained how Rory and a group of friends founded the local GAA club in 1955. And in 1962, Rory captained Feenagh-Kilmeedy to winning the county Junior A Hurling Championship title. The club also won it in 2003, when Roderick followed in his father’s footsteps as captain.
“We want to thank everyone for your support. Some of the tributes we have received have been overwhelming,” he said. Tributes to Mr Kiely have spanned across the worlds of politics and sport. President of Ireland Michael D Higgins said that he was sorry to hear of the death of Rory, who was “much loved by the people of Limerick.”
During the Mass, symbols of Rory Kiely’s life were brought to the altar. A copy of the Farmer’s Journal, “which he read weekly”, represented his work on the family farm. A junior county cup represented the title he shared with his son for Feenagh-Kilmeedy. A club jersey and a Limerick jersey were brought up along with a GAA rulebook, representing his deep knowledge of the Gaelic Games.
The current Seanad Cathaoirleach, Senator O’Donovan, brought forward a copy of the constitution of Ireland, to represent the role they have both occupied. Rory’s interest in horce racing and breeding was represented with a copy of The Irish Field. Finally, a family photograph showed Rory’s fondness for his children, grandchildren and extended family.
County Board secretary, Mike O’Riordan paid tribute to the GAA veteran: “Rory was an absolute gentleman. We had great times together. He made a massive contribution to GAA at club, county and provincial level.”
Rory Kiely’s coffin was carried out of the church draped in the tricolour, to the tune of ‘Limerick, You’re a Lady’.
Feenagh-Kilmeedy GAA formed a guard of honour outside their club to salute the coffin on its way to the graveyard.
“I will miss his personality, his company, and his rogue smile,” said his son, Roderick, at the altar.
“Dad, we are going to miss you massively. Rest in peace.”