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Senior judge Turlough O'Donnell who presided over notorious Troubles trials buried

By Claire O'Boyle

Hundreds of mourners turned out to pay their respects at the funeral of Turlough O'Donnell, the judge who sent the Shankill Butchers to prison.

Mr O'Donnell (92), who presided over some of the most notorious paramilitary trials of the Troubles, died peacefully last Friday "after a life courageously lived", his family said.

Originally from Newry, the father-of-four and grandfather of 12 went on to live on the Glen Road in west Belfast before retiring to Blackrock in Co Louth in the early 1990s, where his funeral was held at St Oliver Plunkett Church on Sunday.

Mr O'Donnell and his late wife Eileen, who died eight years ago, spent many years holidaying in the seaside village.

Paying tribute to the leading figure in Northern Ireland law, parish priest Fr Padraig Keenan told the congregation: "In his own unique and humble manner Turlough gave nourishment, wisdom and sustenance to his family circle which will always be treasured and cherished by each of them.

"He was a good man, a family man, and a husband, father and grandparent.

"He led a life of goodness that was reflected in all aspects that made up his life within and beyond the boundaries of his family home.

"Turlough's life was so enriching in thought, word and deed.

"He was inspired by the spirit of truth in all facets of life.

"The village of Blackrock was Turlough's and Eileen's paradise on this earth - a piece of tranquillity and peace.

"We trust that they are together in the paradise of heaven."

Fr Keenan added: "It was very special to celebrate the spirit of Turlough's remarkable life, a life he was very discreet and humble about, despite the things he had achieved.

"The church was overflowing during the funeral Mass, and the music - traditional music as well as music from our church choir which Turlough and Eileen were members of - was beautiful and gave a very special feel to it all."

The prominent judge presided over the 1979 trial of the 10-strong Shankill Butchers gang which murdered at least 19 people across Belfast, both Catholics and Protestants.

When sentencing one of the brutes, Robert 'Basher' Bates to 14 life sentences, Mr O'Donnell said: "I mean life imprisonment to mean life imprisonment."

As a defence lawyer Mr O'Donnell also acted for the last man to receive the death penalty before capital punishment was abolished in Northern Ireland.

His two sons Donal and Turlough followed him into law, with Donal becoming the youngest person in Ireland to be promoted from the Bar to the Supreme Court. Both spoke at their father's funeral.

Mr O'Donnell is also survived by his daughters Maire and Eileen, his brother Donall and 12 grandchildren.

Solicitor Denis Moloney said of the former judge: "He was a distinguished judge and it is with deep regret to hear of his passing and my sympathies are with the extended family. The Irish legal fraternity has lost a great luminary."

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