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'A great Irishman': Politicians pay tribute to former Francie Brolly

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Francie Brolly’s wife Anne and family at the former politician’s funeral at St Patrick’s Church in Dungiven

Francie Brolly’s wife Anne and family at the former politician’s funeral at St Patrick’s Church in Dungiven

Francie Brolly

Francie Brolly

Lorcan Doherty

Francie Brolly’s funeral at St Patrick’s Church in Dungiven

Francie Brolly’s funeral at St Patrick’s Church in Dungiven

Francie Brolly’s funeral at St Patrick’s Church in Dungiven

Francie Brolly’s funeral at St Patrick’s Church in Dungiven

Francie Brolly’s wife Anne and family at the former politician’s funeral at St Patrick’s Church in Dungiven

Mourners gathered at St Patrick's Church in Dungiven yesterday as the funeral of former Sinn Fein MLA Francie Brolly took place.

The 82-year-old veteran republican passed away unexpectedly at his family home near Dungiven in the early hours of Thursday.

First serving on Limavady Borough Council for the party, Mr Brolly later represented the East Londonderry constituency at Stormont from 2003 until his retirement in 2010. During this time he was the party's spokesman on Culture, Arts and Leisure. He later resigned from Sinn Fein in 2018 out of protest over the party's changing policy around abortion.

He joined his wife Anne, who had left two years prior, in the newly formed conservative republican party, Aontu.

Aontu's deputy leader and long time friend Dr Anne McCloskey described the man as a "gentle soul".

She added: "Francie and Anne were such an incredible team and they shared a searing intellect, caring and a deep, deep faith and deep, deep compassion for the human race.

"Francie, although he spent a lifetime in Sinn Fein, both he and Anne were individuals who very much took their own decisions, and the culmination of that was that when Sinn Fein required them to support abortion - which was against their deeply held fundamental principles - they wouldn't do it. Francie always said: 'We didn't leave Sinn Fein, Sinn Fein left us'."

As well as a long-standing career in teaching, Mr Brolly was also a high-profile inter-county Gaelic footballer with Derry and played hurling and football for Dungiven.

The father of well-known GAA pundit Joe Brolly, the father-of-five was also well regarded for his songwriting and his love of the Irish language.

The man was known to have taught the language at night classes in Limavady.

Tributes to Mr Brolly were paid by figures from across the political divide.

Sinn Fein party leader Mary Lou McDonald described him as "a committed and dedicated Irish republican", who was "a fine political representative, a campaigner and a musician".

Deputy leader Michelle O'Neill said he was "a significant figure in the political life of east Derry for many years and will be missed by many".

Dungiven Sinn Fein councillor Sean McGlinchey said Mr Brolly's death was a terrible loss to the town.

He said: "Francie Brolly was a gentleman, a great Irishman, a family man who loved the simple things in life. He devoted his whole life to helping people and no matter when you saw Francie he had a smile on his face."

The SDLP's John Dallat MLA said: "Francie was beyond party politics and I regarded him as a friend that I could trust.

"As well as the Irish language, GAA, music and many other talents, Francie was incredibly amusing and entertaining. He will be sadly missed."

Fr Joseph Varghese said Mr Brolly, who along with his wife attended mass daily in the parish, was an integral part of Dungiven.

He said: "Francie's death has left us all deeply shocked and saddened. He played a very active role in the church. He was an eucharist minister, a reader and was a member of the choir. Francie's presence in the parish will be sorely missed and I offer my condolences to Anne and the rest of the family."

A funeral notice said he was loving father of Joe, Proinnsias, Conal, Aine and Nodlaig.

Belfast Telegraph