Funeral tributes to abuse probe chairman Sir Anthony Hart
Sir Anthony Hart helped heal wounds, says bishop
A former High Court judge who led an independent inquiry which exposed decades of historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland had great human sympathy, mourners heard yesterday.
Bishop of Clogher, the Right Rev John McDowell, told those gathered in St Mark's Church in east Belfast that Sir Anthony Hart was a modest master of life.
The 73-year-old died suddenly last week in St Thomas' Hospital in London after suffering a heart attack.
Referring to his legal accomplishments, the clergyman recalled once asking Sir Anthony what he had studied at Trinity College, Dublin.
"His answer was 'rowing, and a little bit of law'," he said.
"We all know that the second part of that sentence is rather misleading.
"There was no-one more diligent and wholehearted in his application to any case or any cause that he defended, prosecuted or tried."
The bishop said Sir Anthony's work as chair of the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry was "a prodigy of organisational skill, forensic ability and, indispensably, of human sympathy".
"I think in some ways - small and not so small - he helped towards healing the manifestly inhuman treatment that was so painfully recounted," he added.
Survivors of abuse, including prominent campaigners Margaret McGuckian, Kate Walmsley and Jon McCourt, as well as senior members of the legal profession, were among those who attended the funeral.
Bishop McDowell said his many friends knew that a "higher providence" had taken a hand when Sir Anthony was asked to head up the HIA Inquiry and that they also knew that damaged lives were in "safe hands".
He also said that despite Sir Anthony's professional accomplishments, his faith and devotion were at the quiet centre of his life.
The clergyman told mourners that Sir Anthony, the son of a vet, grew up in Co Fermanagh, where he attended the former Royal Portora Grammar School.
He said it was this traditional upbringing which helped him through the "weary maze of everyday tragedies which are the staple of the criminal courts" and the "heart rending" pain of those who were brave enough to tell their stories.
Sir Anthony had a lifelong passion for rowing and supported the boats of his former school - which later became the Enniskillen Royal Grammar School - until the end of his life.
The bishop commended his "tremendous sense of duty and sacrifice" in every aspect of life, including that of his family.
His widow Lady Mary and their four children, Patrick, Fiona, Katherine and David hailed Sir Anthony as a "hero".