He was “the youngest of three remarkable children born to Michael and Ellen Houlihan of Reineen, Castleisland,” Co Kerry, Ann Houlihan told the congregation at St Kevin’s Church on Dublin’s Haddington Road in today.
She was speaking at the end of a funeral Mass for her uncle journalist Con Houlihan (86) who died at St James Hospital at the weekend following a long illness.
“We thought him the gentlest of giants, the uncle who coaxed me from behind the sofa with bananas when I was terrified of his mountainous presence. We would migrate top his orbit at pitches and race tracks around Kerry, never realizing he was already an institution.”
She said the family would be “taking Connie home on Friday the 7th of September where, after Mass he will be laid to rest with his parents, sister and brother-in-law at Kilbannivane cemetery, Castleisland.”
It will be the third funeral service for Con Houlihan.
In a brief eulogy at the end of the Mass this afternoon, Ray Hennessy, a friend of the journalist, described Con Houlihan as “a sculptor of language” who was “sensitive, compassionate, humourous, sometimes extremely funny, courteous, with perfect manners.”
He recalled a comment he made when unable to locate a book of poetry by Gerald Manley Hopkins after a cleaning lady had done her work, “you know, if that woman worked in Trinity College she’d throw out the Book of Kells”.
On another occasion, when Kerry unexpectedly beat Dublin in football he was asked how his friend Harriet, a dedicated Dublin supporter, was taking it, “Con replied ‘House private. No flowers’.”
At the crematorium in Harold’s Cross later, in a brief tribute, author Dermot Bolger said of “no other journalist could file a sports column from Berne, which devoted more space to his opinions on the paintings he encountered in an art gallery than to the tedious encounter between the Irish and Swiss soccer teams, which he summed up as footballers clashing `with all the force of two pillows colliding’.”
The Mass was celebrated by Msgr Tom Stack who also presided at the ceremony in the crematorium. He was assisted at St Kevin’s by Fr Gerard Deighan, Kerry priests Fr John O’Connell and Fr Tony Gaughan, and Fr Brian D’Arcy.
Music was by John Kelly, John Sheehan, Bill Dowdall, Tony Flynn, and Neillidh Mulligan.
Among those who carried the coffin from the church were former soccer international Niall Quinn, former rugby international Hugo McNeill, Pat O’Mahoney of Goal, and Liam Mackey of the Irish Examiner.
Chief mourners were Con Houlihan’s friend Harriet, his sister-in-law Kathleen, nieces Sandra, Ann and Patricia, nephew Michael.
President Higgins was represented by Col Brendan McAndrew and the Taoiseach Enda Kenny by Cmdt Mick Treacy
Also there were Government Ministers Jimmy Deenihan and Joan Burton, MEP Sean Kelly, Cllr Dr Bill Tormey former Senator Donie Cassidy, former TDs Tom Parlon and Jim Glennon, John Rogers SC, poets Brendan Kennelly, Hugh McFadden, Brian Lynch, and Paddy Finnegan and Peigin Lally wife of the late actor Mick Lally.
There too were former Kerry manager Mick O’Dwyer, former footballers Jimmy Keaveney and Paddy Cullen, and former hurler Nicky English.
Also there were Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh, Eileen Dunne, Rodney Rice and Brian Carthy from RTÉ as well as journalist and broadcaster Vincent Browne.
Mulligans pub on Poolbeg St was represented by Gerry Cusack, the Palace bar on Fleet St by Liam Ahern, the Bank on Dame St by Charlie Chawke, Doheny & Nesbitts on Merrion Row by Tom Mangan.
There too was managing editor of Independent Newspapers Michael Denieffe, Gerry O’Regan editor of the Irish Independent, Stephen Rae, editor of the Evening Herald, Sean Ward former editor of the Evening Press.
Among the large contingent of former Press group journalists and staff there were Dick O’Riordan, Ray Burke, Tim Ryan, Mick O’Kane, Stephens Collins, Stephen O’Byrnes, Fionnuala Mulcahy, Paddy Madden, Chris Dooley, Helen Rock, Yvonne Judge, Joe Kennedy, John Redmond, Ken Whelan, Des Nix, Eanna Brophy, John Kelly, Sean McConnell, Willie Collins, Tom O’Shea, Colm Rapple, Michaelm Farrell, Cyril Byrne, Liam Gorman, Eoghan Corry, John Brophy, Sean Boyne, John O’Reilly, Yvonne Maxwell.