Dessie O'Hare, the republican paramilitary who was once the most wanted man in Ireland, delivered a glowing tribute to the slain crime godfather Eamon Kelly at his funeral in Dublin this week.
O'Hare, who was once dubbed 'The Border Fox' for after a series of escapes from the police on both sides of the Irish border, hailed Kelly as a 'martyr' of Irish Republicanism.
According to the Irish Independent, dozens of figures from the Irish criminal underworld turned out to pay their respects to the 65-year-old convicted cocaine smuggler who was shot dead by the dissident group the Real IRA last week.
The chief mourners at the funeral were Kelly's five surviving sons and two daughters. His wife Ann died of cancer last year. His son Robert and daughter Jennifer also predeceased him.
Kelly is believed to have been shot dead by dissidents in retaliation for the murder of Real IRA faction leader Alan Ryan last September.
Irish police maintained a low-key presence at the funeral, with two police officers patrolling the street outside and a police van parked nearby.
An unnamed man has reportedly been charged with Kelly's murder. Meanwhile six other suspects were arrested at the weekend and questioned about the shooting. Files are now being prepared by investigating police for the Irish Director of Public Prosecutions.
In a eulogy requested by Kelly's family, former INLA leader Dessie O'Hare paid tribute to Ireland's former crime boss as a 'kind, courageous and loyal comrade' who had done much 'work for others,' especially for prisoners.
Quoting poet W.B. Yeats, O'Hare said Kelly's death was part of the 'terrible beauty' of the struggle for freedom, adding that the 'British colonial wrong' had left a 'stinking legacy of servitude' in Ireland. 'Eamon's life was dedicated to achieving the same goal of freedom and peace,' O'Hare said.
O'Hare finished his eulogy with the Messianic words: 'Father forgive them for they know not what they do.'
Kelly was reportedly a close drinking buddy of O'Hare's and the pair regularly socialized together. The two had struck up an enduring friendship whilst serving substantial sentences in Portlaoise prison together.
O'Hare was released from prison in April 2006 after serving 19 years for kidnapping and mutilating Dublin dentist John O'Grady and has lived in Dublin since then. O'Hare was released under the Good Friday Agreement having served almost half of the 40-year sentence delivered in 1987.
At the funeral Monsignor Alex Stenson described Kelly's shooting as a dreadful and evil deed. 'He was brutally murdered and nothing justified that,' he said.
He told the congregation that much of what is reported in the newspapers was untrue. 'We are all sinners, Stenson said, commenting that it was 'easy to point the finger at others when we should be looking at ourselves.'
Kelly was tenderly recalled by his son Paul as everything you could ask for in a dad. 'He had very little but he would give you half of his money,' he said. The family's only consolation was that their father has now been reunited with Ann, his best friend, Paul added.
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