Francie Brolly pictured with his wife, Anne.
Mourners at the funeral of veteran republican Francie Brolly heard how he was "an exceptional human being" whose death has sparked a wave of emotion and sadness throughout the community and beyond.
The touching comments were made by parish priest Father Seamus Kelly, who on Saturday described the 82 year-old as a "fiercely committed family man"
The former politician was laid to rest following Requiem mass at St Patrick's Church, Dungiven, after passing away suddenly on Thursday.
The packed out church heard how Francie and his wife Anne had spent 51 years of married life together.
A symbol of that love and commitment was presented at the opening of the mass - a handmade harp that Francie crafted for Anne while interned in Long Kesh.
Francie’s unfaltering faith was central to his life and Fr Kelly’s opening remarks at his funeral were reflective of how important it was to him.
He said: “He had an unflagging loyalty to the church and its service in whatever role he was asked to play, but he knew we are all in need of redemption and he would never presume in the grace of God.
“He went regularly to make confession with the monks in Portglenone. In that same spirit we lay him to rest after a sudden call from above. We gather because we believe that death is not the end, but the beginning of our new life with God.”
The parish priest paid tribute to Francie’s staunchly pro-life stance and revealed that he had asked, in the event of his death, that the emblem of the little feet of the unborn be pinned to his lapel.
Francie was intensely proud of the revival of the Irish language in his native Dungiven and helped keep the flame alive in both the GAA club and loca school. Fr Kelly recalled that he was somewhat of a perfectionist.
He said: “I remember on one occasion Francie tutoring me for a few hours and I thought I had it all right.
“So I met Francie after the mass, expecting an 'A' star. I asked him how I did.
"He looked at me and smiled and he said ‘Seamus, go measartha’ – alright.”
Francie was a regular at daily mass and contributed to the life of the parish in many ways, often providing music, reading the liturgy, serving on the altar and attending parish pilgrimages.
He said his rosary every day and spent his final day acting as proud sponsor for his godson Rory Óg at his Confirmation.
Rory Óg took the name ‘Proinseas’ in honour of his godfather.
Fr Kelly asked the congregation to remember that Francie’s death was the beginning of his new life with God and extended his condolences to his family.
He said: “There is great sadness in our hearts today as we say our final farewell to Francie, yet as followers of Jesus we believe that death is not the end.
“We gather here as people of hope this afternoon, for we believe that Jesus died and rose again and God, through Jesus, will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”
In his final statement, the priest called to mind the words of the prophet Micah, which Fr Kelly, a friend of Francie’s for 34 years, felt summed him up perfectly:
“This is what the Lord asks of you, only this. To act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God.”
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