Funeral Rights




From top: Roscommon Fianna Fáil General Election literature 1977; Dan Boyle

It is time to end the necrophiliac practice of Irish politics [canvassing at funerals].

It diminishes us all.

Dan Boyle writes

As the prospect of another election in 2016 slightly recedes, I’d like to give some attention to one of the more distasteful aspects of Irish political campaigning.

A good friend recounted to me the antics of a very successful, and renowned candidate, from the recent general election.

It was his habit to attend as many local funerals as possible, in order to place his colourfully liveried 4 x 4 in front of the funeral cortège to allow for maximum public visibility.

I would have had my own experience of this, if not as blatant. Before my election I would have worked as a community development worker for Muintir na Tire in County Cork.

A high profile, key volunteer with the organisation would have experienced a terrible family event, when a teenage son would have succumbed to cancer. The funeral was a major event in the most remote of rural parishes.

Ten minutes into the funeral mass a local Fianna Fáil TD put into play his well practiced routine. At this time he deliberately and calculatedly entered the church. He walked up the centre aisle looking for the highest available seat. All in the name of maximum visibility. I have despised the man ever since.

A third distasteful incident was listening to the tributes in Dáil Éireann on the death of Sean Doherty, former Cathoirleach of the Seanad, Minister for Justice and TD for Roscommon. He of journalist phone tapping fame, and probably more famous for his Nighthawks TV interview that stuck the final knife in the back of Charlie Haughey.

A Roscommon TD recounted a story to the Dáil that he felt was humorous.

The story concerned the rivalry between Doherty and his Fianna Fáil stablemate, Terry Leyden. The death of a person of status in Roscommon made all public representatives adjust their schedules accordingly.

Sean Doherty managed to attend the funeral. When sympathising with the widow he needed to find out where he stood as regards his rival.

Has Terry been?” he asked when offering his ‘sympathies’.

“He came to the removal last night Sean,” the widow responded.

Slightly panicking at this answer, he was forced to think on his feet.

I’m glad. I had asked him to come along,” replied Sean, ‘honour’ thus being retrieved.

Jesus wept I thought as I was listening to this. It elicited laughter in the chamber, but to me it illustrated so many of the things that continue to be wrong with Irish politics.

It has always been thus and will always be thus you might say. I don’t. It is receding and is now more of a rural than an urban preoccupation.

That it exists at all reflects badly on all of us. It is time to end, to bury, this necrophiliac practice of Irish politics. It diminishes us all.

In my public career I had a strict friends, family, neighbours rule in relation to funerals. It probably cost me votes, although I don’t care if it did or not.

Seeing an end to this type of gombeenism is a funeral I would gladly attend.

Don Boyle is a former Green Party TD. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

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53 thoughts on “Funeral Rights

  1. Jimmee

    Just because you disapprove of it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. If it’s a tried and trusted way of keeping yourself in front of the local electorate, and it’s neither illegal in any way, then what harm? Does Dan attend these funerals also sitting at the back of the church waiting to be offended by the local TD parading themselves down the aisle in front of all the mourners?

    1. MoyestWithExcitement

      ?? That’s a weird opening sentence. He’s questioning the morality of it, not its effectiveness. It’s just odd logic to connect the two. Just because it’s legal and within the rules doesn’t mean it’s insincere BS and immoral

  2. kellma

    Of course, this is not illegal. Is it tacky? Yes. Does it work? It would, unfortunately, seem so. Is it sad that people cannot see through this? Yes.
    I think this piece is apt giving the “showmanship” manoeuvres currently playing out in the dail between tweedle dum and tweedle dumber – you decide which one is which…
    Politics and politicians are all about smoke and mirrors. I wonder will we ever get away from it?

  3. Spaghetti Hoop

    Sorry but this is petty nonsense Dan – or Don as the Broadsheeters have called you here (lol).

    A close family member of mine was an upstanding community member and lots of well known politicians (shleeveens and otherwise) attended her funeral – I had no problem with that. A funeral becomes public once the family announce it and therefore anyone is entitled to attend. Plus you cannot speak for the deceased.

    1. MoyestWithExcitement

      I’d say petty is showing up at a funeral in the hope people will think you’re a caring sort and be note likely to vote for you. I’d almost say it’s disgusting actually.

      1. My Meaty Member

        I agree, if you look at it objectively. But at the same time I understand what Hoop is saying, if the deceased were still alive it might be they don’t always see it that way as they might see it as a recognition of their status etc. It’s a very peculiar area of Irish life, in particular in rural areas that always troubled me. But as I grow older I become more accepting of the quirks and rituals of life.
        and in fairness to Dan, I think Hoop is taking some of this out of context. Dan does not seem to object to political types attending funerals per se, he speaks more to the commodification of the funeral attendance as part of a modern day political campaign.

        1. Spaghetti Hoop

          One could say that politicians try to score points by being ‘seen’ at emotive events as soon as they walk out the door in the morning.I’m not saying they’re all base and shallow but isn’t it kind of part of the job description to pump up your persona at every opportunity and tragedies are no exception? Look at political TV dramas. Look at the British Royals when there’s a flood or a Blitz.
          Couldn’t care less if one came to my funeral. Once the important people were in the front row, who gives a hoot about the cheap seats and the point-scoring motives?

          1. MoyestWithExcitement

            Would you show up at the funeral of someone you’ve never met nor have any personal connection to?

          2. My Meaty Member

            A lot of rural Irish people do Moyest, that’s what I was trying to get across. People feel they have an intrinsic connection to someone in their locale if they even know their friends let alone the deceased individual. It’s kind of the ‘done thing’ – many say – to attend at funerals for that reason, a sort of tradition.

          3. Spaghetti Hoop

            I wouldn’t, no.
            But I can see why a mayor, Councillor, TD would. Because part of politics is about getting out from behind the desk and pressing flesh. I don’t like them for it but it’s a fact of life.
            I appreciate people find funerals off-limits and are more enraged about this than I am – but funeral announcements are made public via the media – what I’m saying is that if you want to exclude the career-politicians from a mourning, you can easily say so. But ‘you’ in this case is a collective family voice representing the deceased and politicians the last thing on your mind.

          4. MoyestWithExcitement

            “But I can see why a mayor, Councillor, TD would. Because part of politics is about getting out from behind the desk and pressing flesh. I don’t like them for it but it’s a fact of life.”

            Right but the point of Dan’s article is fo question the morality of it. My opinion is that it’s highly immoral to use someone’s funeral to further your career. It’s part of a wider problem but it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be talked about and condemned. You can’t just say ‘oh well, fact of life’. You can let a lot of bad people do a lot of bad things with that attitude. Bad people actually rely on that attitude. They do bad things because we let them away with it.

          5. Spaghetti Hoop

            But Moyest how the hell do you prove they’re attending only for self-serving reasons?
            Jaysus I’ve been at many an oul mass – weddings, funerals, christenings – bored out of my tree and thinking of the sandwiches and /or pint afterwards and who I really need to talk to. I’m not going soft on politicians – can’t stand them – but they are entitled to attend a funeral and pretend they were bessie mates with the dude in the coffin like many people do. It’s not a million miles away from human nature.

    2. kellma

      Sorry for your loss Hoop but this doesn’t really detract from Dan’s points. Sure, a funeral can be a public event. It depends how you see it. As regards my own; well I will be dead so I won’t have an opinion, so nobody including myself, can speak for me. For me, a funeral is an opportunity for those who are hurt by the loss to begin dealing with the loss/grief. If it was my husband or one of my children (hopefully I will live to see neither) I would take great umbrage in some person who hardly knew me or my family “using” the “occasion” to score brownie points. That would make me very mad….
      But you were Ok with the situation so different strokes and all that..

  4. Clampers Outside!

    “….stuck the final knife in the back of Charlie Haughey.”

    You say that as if you have sympathy for the man?
    He was a man deserving of worse, an inglorious self serving hypocrite lacking in any integrity or probity. My point, that ‘knife’ was probably the one Haughey lodged in his friend Lenihan’s back.

  5. daithiblue

    This kind of behaviour is symptomatic of the PR system we have.
    The country is crying out for some kind of an electoral list system whereby politicians can be chosen based on their qualifications, experience and suitability for the job, rather than how many people’s hands they manage to shake at funerals. The present system just encourages the prioritization of local issues but does nothing for the long-term bigger picture – witness the plethora of single-issue independents and the “will they, will they not” vote for us spectacle on show today in the Dail.

  6. Rugbyfan

    “The country is crying out for some kind of an electoral list system whereby politicians can be chosen based on their qualifications, experience and suitability for the job, rather than how many people’s hands they manage to shake at funerals”

    well said. it is an embarrassment watching the yahoos in Kildare st at the moment, two brothers from Kerry only in there to get stuff for Kerry, pink wearing, airport raiding heroes looking for headlines and a collection led by an alleged retired terrorist who has no interest in discussing government with anyone as all they want to say is NO ! If it was another country we would be laughing at them!

    1. My Meaty Member

      pink wearing airport raiding

      – it’s the pink that really gets you isn’t it? It makes you ashamed of your own tiny little flaccid member right?

      1. ahjayzis

        By member you mean TD. And by that TD you mean Micks constituency colleague Brendan Howlin right? Tiny and flaccid describes him perfectly. Yer man’s only jelo Mick topped the poll ;o)

        1. My Meaty Member

          The whole pink shirt wearing thing really seems to concern a lot of people. Who knew!

      2. Anne

        My Meaty Member
        April 14, 2016 at 11:19 am

        pink wearing airport raiding

        – it’s the pink that really gets you isn’t it? It makes you ashamed of your own tiny little flaccid member right?

        Stop projecting..

        Admins, he’s trolloping around the place again.
        Is a banning on the cards today per chance?

        1. My Meaty Member

          Go on you good thing ;) We’re really seeing your true colours now ;)

          People like you always have only one objective and that’s to shout down dissent.

          1. Anne

            Shout down dissent.. the dissent of flaccid willies, is it. hmmm, k.
            Just messin’ with ya meaty.. I don’t have any sway like, relax. You were quite civilised above there with Moyest. Well done.

          2. MoyestWithExcitement

            I wouldn’t get too worked up about him, Anne. he’s deliberately going for that. Pity is what I would and do feel when I read his posts. I mean, what kind of mind calls people ‘mouthy fa***ts” out of the blue or takes any chance he can to speak condescendingly to or about women? Probably a borderline hermit; not someone whose words you even need to think about.

          3. ahjayzis

            I must’ve missed that comment!

            Funny considering this context – it’s usually little men feeling precious about their manhood that talk like that ;o)

          4. My Meaty Member

            @Ahjaysiz – Context is everything sweetie

            if you are indeed a gay man what I was questioning there was you using the line of argument that other commenters, being men*, therefore don’t get to have a say on abortion rights as it only affects women, that’s all, I’m pretty sure I do recall you making that point in that thread

            and @ fluffybiscuits – no it wasn’t meant as a slur either, ahjaysiz is pretty mouthy, but at least he usually/always has something intelligent and/or witty to say unlike some other respondents on this thread (not yourself)

            and I don’t think anyone is contesting that he is queer either.

            Now there’s a funny thing – when Moyestie read that he converted the word ‘queer’ which is a normal sort of word into a derogatory word in order to make some kind of argument or other, I thought that was interesting to note.

            (*newsjustin being the one I recall, though I’m not going to look back at it as I haven’t time to be trawling through old conversations like Pikie Annie going through someone’s soiled panties)

          5. ahjayzis

            I actually don’t use that word, I’m old fashioned. ‘Queer’ is such a hipster ‘look at me’ term. Like using ‘Creative’ capitalised and as a noun like ‘Binman’.
            Plus gayness isn’t queer any more, it’s positively run of the mill.

            I also wasn’t saying men don’t have a right to an opinion, I was remarking how the people most het up about things like this are the ones those things never actually impact upon, such as same sex marriage and women’s reproductive rights. Literally two things Ronan Mullen will always be six degrees of separation from owing to his vows of chastity and general lack of sexual appeal to either gender.

          6. Anne

            ” that’s all”

            No, that’s not all you said Meaty. You said ‘I’m a mouthy queer hence you know this stuff doesn’t affect me either but I have nothing better to do than rant on boratsheet all day

            As for trawling through older posts.. It’s right up there on the most commented Meaty. Someone else mentioned it, so I got it.
            Unfortunately, sometimes, I have a bad habit of remember things people say and write. It’s a curse with the likes of you really..

            ” I thought that was interesting to note.”.. No it wasn’t.. and your response is even more boring as are the insults you throw at people.

            You’d be better off at The Would they have you at all?

          7. My Meaty Member

            @ Ahjaysiz thanks for clarifying

            Obviously these things do *impact on this kind of person though I mean that’s a bit naive, their daughter could arrive home looking for the morning after pill and etc. But yes I take your point. I’m pretty keen from a tactical point of view in letting things be discussed openly you know -? That way there’s less hiding places for the troglodytes who want to put other people down.

            And regarding the other thing if you tell me what term you prefer I’ll use that instead :)

            @ Anne – I think you’re one of those “look at me ” types Ahjaysiz is referring to. As a matter of interest why do you keep telling me to go away and post somewhere else etc? Are you some kind of thought fascist or just too ignorant to objectively see how badly that comes across?

    2. Blonto

      You have to hand it to The Wallace. He gets involved in national issues and leaves the parish-pump b**s**t politics alone. If there was more TD’s with his attitude the Dail would be a far more effective place.

      Local politics should be left to county councillors and TDs should only be allowed work on national issues.

      P.S. I hate the word “parish”. Sums up the power the church has had over the country for far too long.

    3. Kieran NYC

      Ha. You say ‘alleged’ like you’re afraid of him suing you for libel. It’s sweet.

      He’d be laughed out of court.

  7. nellyb

    Imagine someone carrying tupperware samples in a funeral crowd. Not pushing it, just having it displayed for potential buyers. But, there is no way to distinguish a sale from paying respects, if there is no material goods involved. And some go to funerals out of genuine respect. I understand Dan is making an appeal to human condition. Mighty challenge, I hope he’s successful.

  8. The Old Boy

    Many years ago, an elderly relative of mine who was the widow of a prominent businessman in parts rural died the week after a general election. We were all mightily relieved that she held on the extra few days because we had been expecting the wake to be turned into an impromptu hustings by every prospective parliamentarian in the constituency.

  9. SOMK

    Just read the bits in bold because Dan Boyle, so he made himself highly visibly then slept with the corpse?

    I agree this necrophilia needs to end, very bad taste.

  10. bisted

    …say what you like about the FFers but they are playing a blinder at the moment…they will 100% dictate policy in the next government while retaining control of the oppostion and will decide the date of the next election. They have doubled their representation in the Dail and already control most councils…all through the hard slog of attending funerals and other forms of clientilism.
    The sad thing is, had labour not gone into government last time, FF would have been subsumed into FG and consigned to oblivion – like the greens.

    1. DubLoony

      Do you honestly think there would have been a chance for FF going back into govt having driven the country over a cliff & brought in the IMF?

      1. bisted

        …I said subsumed…instead labour betrayed their supporters for the lure of power and pensions instead of breaking the mould of civil war politics and forming an effective left-wing opposition for the first time.

  11. Owen C

    I don’t see turning up at the funeral of someone in your constituency as immoral. I see it more as the unfortunate by-product of our parish pump politics where local concerns generally overrule national ones. If we do away with that local over-importance, TD’s will just naturally stop conducting themselves in the manner which Dan is so upset about.

  12. DubLoony

    Lots of local groups do lobby their TDs and relationships build up over the years.
    If the deceased is well known to the TD, I’d have no problem with that.
    But the show boating and look at me antics is disgusting.

  13. ollie

    You know, nothing grinds my gears worse than some chowderhead that doesn’t know when to keep his big trap shut… If you catch me running off with my mouth, just give me a poke on the chubbs

    1. Spaghetti Hoop

      More excellent terms like ‘chowderhead’ ollie and you can carry on to your hearts content ;)

  14. theCitizen

    Plenty of relatives at rural funerals would be disappointed if no TD’s show their face. It’s a good show for the neighbours. Sometimes you even get a Minister. That always impresses.
    Now if you get the guy with the sword that does what the president says, that’s a real score. he wouldn’t be allowed leave without a few sandwiches wrapped in tinfoil for the trip home.
    Dan seems to be showing here what always tripped up the Greens, an inability to win the game as it is before you try and change the rules.

    1. Dan Boyle

      Em no. I know it works. Never wanted to play that game and that meant less votes, so what?

  15. Cromuel

    If you live in a small place, you’re expected to turn up to neighbours’ funerals; in quite a few remote areas you’re even expected to help bury your neighbour. It would be a deep insult for someone representing the community, or someone seen as doing a prominent job in the community, not to turn up to a funeral.
    So a local representative is in a sticky position. He or she (overwhelmingly he) has to turn up and give his condolences, and talk quietly to the neighbours, and see if there’s any help needed; on the other hand, he can’t be seen to make political capital out of a sorrowful occasion.

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