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West Belfast comes to standstill for Harry

By Claire McNeilly

It was a murder that shocked the entire community - and it seemed that entire community turned out yesterday to pay its last respects to Harry Holland.

Mr Holland spent many years serving the people of west Belfast from his greengrocer's shop - situated opposite the chapel in which Requiem Mass was said for him yesterday.

And they came in their hundreds to remember him - the 65-year-old who had lived for his family.

That shop, and the businesses on either side of it, were closed throughout the service as a mark of respect and police were present to control the traffic as the area came to a virtual standstill.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams was among the mourners in St Matthias' on the Glen Road, which was packed to capacity. Many more gathered in the chapel grounds and lined the streets.

A lone female piper led the funeral procession and the hearse, which was covered with bouquets of multicoloured flowers in deep reds, yellows, oranges and blues, as they passed a guard formed by children from the nearby Irish school.

Speakers positioned in the church grounds allowed the priest's sombre message to be heard by all the mourners. There were emotional scenes inside the church as Mr Holland's wife and daughters shed heartfelt tears.

Mr Holland was stabbed in the head with a screwdriver by teenagers near his home at Norfolk Drive last Tuesday.

Monsignor Tom Toner, who said Mass, had a special message in his sermon for other young people.

"We know that not all of you are car thieves or thugs or druggies or potential murderers, but please do not let yourselves be tarred with the brush of the few who are," he said.

"Have courage, don't be one of the lowlife cowards, say no to loutish behaviour and criminal activity - everyone can be a decent human being with respect for other human beings and that is all the community asks of you."

At the beginning of the service, there was a short presentation of symbols of Harry's life. A basket of fruit and veg, family photographs, a book of Irish history, a Bob Dylan CD and the tricolour flag were poignant reminders of this man they have lost.

Words of sympathy and encouragement were extended by the priest to Mr Holland's wife Pauline, daughters Sarah Grainne, Meabh and Gail, as well as to his mother Violet, his sisters and brothers, and the whole family circle and wider community.

After the service, his immediate family wept over his coffin. Gerry Adams put his arms around Mr Holland's sister, Geraldine McAteer, and whispered words of comfort in her ear.

The funeral cortege then made its sombre way past Mr Holland's shop and on towards his final resting place at Belfast's City Cemetery.

Other prominent politicians who attended Mr Holland's funeral included Alex Attwood, Alex Maskey and Bairbre de Brun. Belfast Lord Mayor Jim Rodgers was also there.

Belfast Telegraph


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