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Mourners told of 'special gifts' of former tanaiste Peter Barry

Published 29/08/2016

Peter Barry's coffin is carried from the church
Peter Barry's coffin is carried from the church

Former tanaiste Peter Barry was a man of integrity and principle who was devoted to his wife and family, his funeral has heard.

Mr Barry, a wealthy businessman as well as a shrewd political deal maker credited with a key role in Anglo-Irish relations during the Troubles, died on Friday aged 88.

President Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and a number of past and serving government ministers were among the mourners at his requiem Mass in St Michael's Church in Blackrock, in his home city of Cork.

Politicians from Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein and Labour - as well as his own Fine Gael party - also turned out to pay their respects.

Chief celebrant Fr Kieran Twomey told the congregation Mr Barry, who helped build the Barrys Tea brand into a household name in Ireland, was a man with "tremendous respect"and who "was respected by all because God blessed him with special gifts".

Describing him as a man of his word, he said the late politician and tea tycoon lived his life with great integrity and principle.

Mr Barry's late wife Margaret was the love of his life, their son Tony told the congregation.

The pair became inseparable after their first date in a tea room and went on to marry and have six children and 21 grandchildren, he said.

"When Margaret got sick he cared for her with huge love and commitment," he told the packed church.

"Things weren't the same for him afterwards."

At the weekend, John Hume hailed Mr Barry as a peacemaker of great courage.

The Nobel prize-winning peace process architect said he was a source of strength for all who stood against violence and "a constant companion to the North throughout our most challenging times as we walked the treacherous path to peace".

From a political dynasty started by his father, the former lord mayor of Cork was first elected a TD (MP) in 1969. He went on to become deputy leader of his Fine Gael party.

Until he retired from national politics in 1997 he served in a number of senior government positions including the education, transport and environment portfolios.

But it was in his role as foreign affairs minister in the years leading up to the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement - credited with being a stepping stone to the Good Friday Agreement - that he is best remembered.

Mr Barry was buried after his funeral Mass in St Michael's Cemetery, Blackrock.

He is survived by his children Deirdre - a serving MEP - and Tony, Fiona, Donagh, Conor and Peter.

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