FUNERAL OF KEVIN FEENEY RIP

Members of the Davy family await the arrival of the remains of Kevin Feeney

Members of the Davy family await the arrival of the remains of Kevin Feeney

Andrew Feeney lives in Australia and was in Melbourne when news reached him of his father’s sudden death. Another of Kevin’s four children was in Russia and apparently had difficulty with an exit visa as he was in the middle of a tour. Andrew spoke very movingly at the end of the funeral Mass at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook, Dublin.

Fr Charlie Davy SJ

Fr Charlie Davy SJ

This wasn’t Kevin’s parish but the church of the Three Patrons in Rathgar is undergoing renovations and the interior has scaffolding erected for painting, so it would not have been able to handle the large crowd of mourners who gathered to say their farewells to Kevin and to sympathise with Kevin’s relatives and family led by his widow Geraldine, a member of the well-known Davy family. His brother-in-law Fr Charlie Davy SJ, Galway, Chair of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association, was the chief celebrant of the Mass, along with nine other priests.

Andrew Feeney told the packed church he was “so proud to have had him (Kevin) as a father”. “We feel he went out on a high as he was at his happiest in Ballycotton” (his holiday home in County Cork), he said. One of his own great memories was attending the Italia 90 Ireland-Italy game with his father.

Remains of Kevin Feeney arrive at Sacred Heart Church

Remains of Kevin Feeney arrive at Sacred Heart Church

In an address at the end of the Mass, the President of the High Court Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns said that although Kevin had been fiercely competitive in the courtroom, he did not like the public spotlight. “He was a very, very private man, who put family and friends first”, he said. He told mourners the late Judge had a unique sense of humour and rarely lost his temper. He spoke of his great interest in sports: rugby, golf, hockey and cricket. “We’re all still in a state of disbelief at his sudden death,” Mr Justice Kearns continued. Family “always remained extremely close…he was devastated when (his brother) John died so tragically” (in a 1984 plane crash at Eastbourne in England).

Funeral of Kevin Feeney

Funeral of Kevin Feeney

He recalled that Kevin, who was 62, had exhibited a sense of justice at an early age. His brother Jim was 16 and Kevin 8 when Jim got a bicycle. “He protested with a placard outside his father’s study which read ‘No Bicycle. No Justice’.”

Kevin Feeney 1951-2013: Photo Peter Cuffe

Kevin Feeney 1951-2013: Photo Peter Cuffe

His “courtroom advocacy skills were superb” and when appointed to the High Court “he took over a difficult case list. He never complained about being overworked or under-resourced. As a lover of sport he was for many years a member of the Phoenix Cricket Club, where “he defended the wicket like the Spartans at Thermopylae”, usually coming into bat at number eight.

Kevin Feeney's funeral at Donnybrook Church

Kevin Feeney’s funeral at Donnybrook Church

Mr Justice Kearns then recalled a golfing trip to Scotland Kevin had organised for colleagues on the bench as part of an outing for the judiciary in the UK and Ireland. The estate car he hired was not large enough for four passengers and all their baggage and equipment. It resulted in one eminent Irish judge sitting on another’s knee while a third ended up sitting on a case in the boot!

Funeral of Kevin Feeney RIP

Funeral of Kevin Feeney RIP

The Irish Times website report carried the following details: “Chief mourners were Geraldine Feeney and their children Andrew, Peter, Kevin Barbara, and Justice Feeney’s brothers Jim and Peter. The President was represented by Cmdt James Galvin and the Taoiseach by Cmdt Mick Treacy. Government Ministers present included Frances Fitzgerald TD and Alex White TD.

A large contingent from the judiciary was led by Chief Justice Susan Denham, and former Chief Justice John Murray Other members of the Supreme Court there included Justices Adrian Hardiman, Frank Clarke, John MacMenamin, as well as Gerard Hogan and George Birmingham of the High Court, Katherine Delahunt and Alison Lindsay of the Circuit Court. Retired judges included Ronan Keane, Hugh O’Flaherty, Tom Finlay, Yvonne Murphy. Also there was NUI Chancellor Maurice Manning.

There too were former Attorneys General Peter Sutherland, Michael McDowell and John Rogers, as well as many from the Law Library, including senior counsel Garret Cooney, John O’Donnell, Eoin McCullagh, Conor Maguire, and David Andrews. Journalists there, present and former, included Mairead Ní Nuadhain, John O’Shea, Stephen O’Byrnes, Mike Burns, Ed Mulhall, Sam Smyth, Betty Purcell, Michael Fisher, Bride Rosney, Joe Little and Liz O’Donnell”.

Funeral of Kevin Feeney at Sacred Heart Church, Donnybrook

Funeral of Kevin Feeney at Sacred Heart Church, Donnybrook

Kevin was in class with me when I attended Gonzaga College 1967-69. Among the former classmates to attend the funeral were Michael McDowell SC, Paul McNally, Denis Brennan, Bobby Becker, Michael Gaffney and Peter Mathews TD. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam dílis.

MR JUSTICE KEVIN FEENEY 1951-2013

Kevin Feeney: Photo Des Barry

Kevin Feeney: Photo Des Barry

“If God is as fair a judge as Kevin we are OK”. Searching the web for news about the sudden death yesterday of Mr Justice Kevin Feeney at his holiday home in County Cork, I came across this post on politics.ie from Eoin Corr. It seemed to me one of the most appropriate quotes for my former classmate at Gonzaga College 1967-69. I transferred from one Jesuit establishment in Wimbledon to another in Dublin when I was 15, having just completed ‘O’ levels, so I was the youngest in class. I didn’t know anyone at the time. Kevin was always welcoming and although I was not a great sportsman, I played rugby alongside him in the forward line.

Michael McDowell who I met yesterday in County Wicklow before the sad news came through about Kevin’s sudden death was a skilful debater and went on to become Attorney General. Kevin was one of the few who could successfully take him on, using his wit and always smiling. A smile that is captured well in Des Barry’s photograph.

Kevin Feeney: Photo Peter Cuffe

Kevin Feeney: Photo Peter Cuffe

At the L&H in UCD he demonstrated those same witty qualities in debates with a range of speakers, many of whom went on like him to become top lawyers. In addition to Michael McDowell, the L&H group included Adrian Hardiman, John McMenamin, Frank Clarke, William Early, Kevin Cross, Alison Lindsay and Mary Finlay. Some of our other classmates from Gonzaga also progressed to become successful lawyers, namely Tom Finlay, Michael Coghlan, Paul McNally and Barry Halton. Most of our class including Kevin joined the FCÁ in Collins Baracks at the same time in 1968 and some served a full five year term.

Kevin Feeney: Referendum Commission

Kevin Feeney: Referendum Commission

Kevin was described quite rightly yesterday as one of the greatest lawyers of his generation. He was educated at UCD and King’s Inns and qualified as a barrister in 1973. He was appointed to the High Court in 2006 and served as chair of the Referendum Commission last year. He was a member of the Courts Service Board. An older brother, John Feeney, was a journalist with the ‘Evening Herald’ who died in the Beaujolais air crash in England in November 1984 with eight others. John was also well-known as a left-wing student activist at UCD. I remember at school another brother, Peter Feeney, who was a year ahead of him in Gonzaga College. He is a former Head of Television Current Affairs and a former Head of Public Policy at RTE. Their father John Kevin Feeney was Professor of Gynaecology and Obstetrics in University College Dublin and Master of the Coombe Hospital in Dublin.

Kevin Feeney: Photo RTÉ News

Kevin Feeney: Photo RTÉ News

Kevin was married to Geraldine and had four adult children, Kevin (junior), Andrew, Peter and Barbara. My sympathy goes to all his family and relations. His funeral will be on Monday morning, according to the death notice in the Irish Times:-

FEENEY, Kevin T. (unexpectedly), August 14, 2013, beloved husband of Geraldine and loving father of Andrew, Peter, Kevin and Barbara, and brother of the late John. Deeply regretted by his brothers Jim and Peter, Andrew’s girlfriend Fiona, sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, nieces, nephews, colleagues, relatives and friends.

May he rest in peace.

Reposing at his home on Sunday from 4pm until 7pm. Removal on Monday morning to the Church of the Sacred Heart, Donnybrook, arriving at 11.15am for Funeral Mass at 11.30am and then to Glasnevin Cemetery. 

Kevin Feeney

Kevin Feeney

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter paid the following tribute:-

I wish to express my deepest sympathy to Mr Justice Kevin Feeney’s wife Geraldine and his children on their sudden and very sad loss. Kevin was a judge of exceptional ability who graced the High Court bench with courtesy and good humour. Given his dedication to public  service, his death at such a young age is a loss for the entire country. He will be sadly missed by everyone who had the privilege of knowing him”. 

Attorney General Maire Whelan said Judge Feeney had served with great distinction in the High Court since his appointment. Ms Whelan said as a judge, he had combined enormous intellectual ability with a compassion and courtesy which left an abiding impression on litigant and lawyer alike.

His deft handling of the Criminal Assets Bureau cases was illustrative of his absolute professionalism and his mastery of a developing area of the law. As counsel, he acted in a series of landmark commercial actions, and he was unquestionably the leading defamation lawyer of his generation, making the sometimes recondite nature of libel law accessible for a jury. He brought the skills he acquired from his practice in the law library to the Bench, where his judgments were informed by his deep knowledge of the law, his robust common sense and his zeal for fairness“, she said.

Ms Whelan said the judge left a legal legacy of incalculable value in his body of reported case law, which would continue for many years to be the bedrock of jurisprudence in matters which concern the recovery of the proceeds of crime. “He was a man of great ability and integrity, and his sudden and unexpected death left a great void in the Irish legal community.

Kevin Feeney: Photo Irish Independent

Kevin Feeney: Photo Irish Independent

The president of the High Court, Nicholas Kearns, said everyone’s thoughts and prayers were with his colleague’s wife Geraldine and family. “I would just like to say we have all learnt with deep shock and sorrow of the death of Mr Justice Kevin Feeney,” he told the packed courtroom ahead of the court list hearings. He was a judge held in the highest esteem by the entire judiciary and legal profession and his many friends. Over the coming days many tributes, well deserved, will be made to him”, he said.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam dílis.

PARNELL SUMMER SCHOOL

Michael McDowell Photo: © Michael Fisher

Michael McDowell Photo: © Michael Fisher

I have known Michael McDowell for over 45 years since we went to school together when I returned to Dublin from Wimbledon in 1967. Peter Mathews TD was in the same year and the three of us along with half a dozen or so more classmates joined the FCÁ together, but only a few completed a five year term, including some full-time duties with the army. I have seen therefore at first hand how much Michael believes in the concept of service to the state and loyalty to the nation.

Update: Since writing this the sad news has emerged of the death of one of our classmates, High Court Judge Kevin Feeney, who was a keen tennis player and had served in the same FCÁ unit I referred to. May he rest in peace. Michael McDowell had earlier told me about the recent death of another well-known Dublin lawyer who served with us in the Military Police, James Gilhooly SC. My sympathy goes to both families.

Steohen Collins & Simon Harris TD Photo: © Michael Fisher

Steohen Collins & Simon Harris TD Photo: © Michael Fisher

It was therefore very interesting to hear him speak at Avondale House at the Parnell Summer School alongside the Wicklow/Carlow East  TD Simon Harris (from Michael’s former party Fine Gael, which I recall he joined at UCD) and Stephen Collins, Political Editor of the Irish Times, on the subject of public service. My former RTÉ News colleague Bryan Dobson chaired the session. This is how the Irish Times is reporting his speech:-

In the Chair: Bryan Dobson, RTÉ News Photo: © Michael Fisher

In the Chair: Bryan Dobson, RTÉ News Photo: © Michael Fisher

The former Justice Minister told the summer school Ireland was not a “failed state” and its people should not accept phoney reform in abolishing the Seanad. Addressing the theme ‘Parnell & Kennedy: Lost Leaders’ this afternoon, and taking a cue from JF Kennedy’s dictum; “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”, Mr Mc Dowell called for a new sense of patriotism and loyalty to the Constitution. He said some commentators seemed to enjoy wallowing in what he termed as a ‘middle-class self-hatred’ or negativity. “It is easy to be critical; it is hard to be constructive, especially during times of economic crisis,” he said.

Audience at Parnell summer school Photo: © Michael Fisher

Audience at Parnell summer school Photo: © Michael Fisher

He recalled the 1998 amendment to the Constitution which he said redefined the nation as one which aspires to include all the people of Ireland, “in all the diversities of their identities and traditions”. “Those words are important” he said, arguing that the State had opened up its sense of patriotism and republicanism “to build and develop on this island a republican State which is not mainly or exclusively Catholic, but is open to all traditions and identities”. But he said “a particularly striking historical nonsense” was the belief by the “post-Marxist left” that republicanism equated with socialism, and a failure to deliver on socialism was a betrayal of the Republic. “The two ideals are not equivalents” he said.

He said loyalty to the State and the Constitution demanded loyalty to the institutions of government which “by and large have served the citizens well”. He also said the Constitution had not failed the people and the three pillars of government – legislature, the executive and the judiciary – were not failed institutions “in concept”.

Felix Larkin, Academic Director Parnell Summer School  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Felix Larkin, Academic Director Parnell Summer School Photo: © Michael Fisher

Mr McDowell said proposals for reform may be worthy and legitimate only if they were motivated by a desire for improvement in the way the State functions. But he said the proposals to abolish the Seanad based on cost were “threadbare and illegitimate”. He said the actual cost of the Seanad was about €1.60 per year for each citizen and “abolitionists” wanted to postpone any supposed savings for three years – spending €14 million now on a referendum to achieve “small savings” in three years, he argued.

“Do we really want now to slam the door shut on non-TD expert participants in Government such as [former minister] James Dooge?” he asked. “Do we also want to turn down the possibility of having Northern voices such as Gordon Wilson or Seamus Mallon, or people such as Mary Robinson and Ken Whitaker in our parliament?” He suggested abolition of the Seanad was “a crude attempt to ride the wave of public disillusionment with phony reform based on phony cost arguments”.

Michael McDowell at Parnell summer school Photo: © Michael Fisher

Michael McDowell at Parnell summer school Photo: © Michael Fisher

Mr McDowell said he believed loyalty to the State involved a duty on every citizen to participate and be responsible in shaping the democratic process, but “corrosive cynicism about politics” damaged democracy. “Our commentariat, in the last analysis, must acknowledge that we as citizens choose our politicians” he said, adding that politicians were not the enemy. “Politics is the process that we as citizens choose it to be. We should not cannibalise the Constitution in the name of reform,” he said.

Stephen Collins, Political Editor, Irish Times Photo: © Michael Fisher

Stephen Collins, Political Editor, Irish Times Photo: © Michael Fisher