It is not courageous to walk into a hotel and shoot somebody, nor is it courageous to walk into a man’s home and do the same.
THAT WAS THE strong message at the funeral of 32-year-old David Byrne, shot dead at a boxing weigh-in at the Regency Hotel ten days ago.
In his address to the congregation at the packed Francis Street church in Dublin this lunchtime, the officiating priest condemned the “despicable destruction” and called for a “hero” to step forward and help bring the gangland feud in which Byrne died, to an end.
The Biblical verse ‘A Time for Everything‘ had been read out at the start of the funeral mass and the priest was clear – now is the time for the killing to stop.
He appealed for “a hero” to “put their head above the parapet”, telling those gathered to mourn father-of-two Byrne that continuing the “tit-for-tat” violence would be an “eye-for-an-eye until everyone is blind”.
Outside, onlookers waited in the street and watched from nearby balconies as gardai – some armed – stood in vigilance at all approaches to the the Church of St Nicolas of Myra. A Garda helicopter hovered above and video and photographic journalists had been asked not to enter the church for the duration of today’s funeral service.
The procession had been led into the churchyard by friends of Byrne on motorcycles, with family carrying the casket the final few yards.
A bagpiper played the ballad Hard Times Come Again No More as mourners made their way inside. Flowers in the hearse spelled out “My Daddy” and “Best Friend”.
Symbols of Byrne’s life – including boxing gloves and a photo of him with his two young daughters – were brought up to the altar.
The portrait painted of the young father was of a fun-filled family man. Nicknamed ‘Happy Harry’ by his mother, he was known as “a messer” to his relatives and friends.
Laughter broke out in the church as his brother Richard recalled the time David lost a bet with him and had to go to the local garage in his mother’s fur coat and a leotard. He also spoke fondly of his brother’s love for his pet rabbit Snowy – he had taught the animal to come when his name was called and was often spotted walking the pet around the streets of his native Crumlin.
Another brother, Liam, thanked everyone who had come to pay their respects.
The most sombre note was struck by the priest who asserted that for someone to be able to carry out such a “cold-blooded murder” as that of David’s, three things would have had to happen.
The murdered would have to be “consumed by a hatred that plunges you into the depths of evil”. They would have to feel a kind of self-loathing, he said, to be capable of taking a life in such a way.
And they would have to objectify the victim, to see him as less than a person:
Could David have been murdered if he had been seen as fully human?
He asked whether the person who murdered the 32 year old would have been able to do so if they could have looked into David’s eyes with the same adoration as his two young daughters, or seen him delight his family and friends with his party trick of backflipping across a dancefloor.
Behind this senseless violence are the lives of real people who love and are loved, he said.
As the mass ended, the platinum casket was carried out to the strains of You’ll Never Walk Alone. Mourners then proceeded, accompanied by a significant Garda presence, to Mount Jerome Cemetery in Harold’s Cross for the burial.