Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Farewell to right-to-die campaigner

Flower tributes at the graveside as Marie Fleming's funeral takes place at Holy Trinity Church in Castlemacadam, Co Wicklow
Marie Fleming's coffin is carried from Holy Trinity Church in Castlemacadam, Co Wicklow

Irish right-to-die campaigner Marie Fleming loved life, a minister at her funeral said.

The multiple sclerosis (MS) sufferer died at her home last week aged 59 with her dedicated partner Tom Curran by her side.

She lost a landmark Supreme Court case in Dublin in April, when lawyers argued he should be allowed help to end her life without fear of prosecution as she was physically unable to do it herself.

Rev Canon George Butler said she was "a very generous, bubbly, loving person who loved life and was always very considerate of others."

Mr Curran was helped into the country church in Co Wicklow, south of Dublin, by his two sons.

The Church of the Holy Trinity is in Avoca, a bucolic-looking village where the BBC series Ballykissangel was filmed.

Several hundred people attended the funeral. Dexys Midnight Runners' Come On Eileen played as her coffin was carried into the church.

Canon Butler added: "I would describe the atmosphere as one of sadness and joy and happiness."

Ms Fleming's daughter Corinna read a letter from her, in which her mother thanked her legal team, saying it was better to have tried and failed than not to have tried at all.

She went to Ireland's highest court in a bid to be allowed to end her life with assistance.

Diagnosed with MS in 1986, she had been wheelchair bound for several years, could only move her head, and was living in constant pain.

In her appeal to the court she revealed she cannot swallow, and feared a choking session would eventually kill her.

She had suffered from several chest infections over the last few months and her health deteriorated in recent weeks.

Mr Curran told mourners that she had died peacefully at home, in her own bed, which was what she was fighting for.

"So what she fought for, she achieved,'' he said.

Recently she had been awake at night when they had many conversations.

"She knew she was dying,'' he added.

He said that she was proud of the impact her red jacket had when she attended the High Court and she did not want people dressing in black for her funeral.

"She wanted this day to be a happy day,'' he added.

One of her sons wore a Christmas pullover.

Mr Curran recalled how he lay beside her at night, and how a thunderstorm raged on the night she died. He thought that it might be anger at her passing, but then believed she was rearranging the furniture from heaven.

"She had a bond with nature,'' he said.

He said that Ms Fleming had made it clear she wanted the right-to-die campaign to continue and he intended pursuing it with others.

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