Priest at gang funeral says he 'hadn't given a thought' to who paid for lavish display

David Byrne's coffin being brought into the church
David Byrne's coffin being brought into the church

Fr Niall Coughlan, who presided over yesterday's funeral of David Byrne in Dublin, has told Liveline that he was “not responsible for how people conduit their funerals.”

Amid a heavy garda presence, Byrne was laid to rest yesterday after a service at the church of St Nicolas of Myra on Francis Street in Dublin 8.

On February 5 Byrne was gunned down by a gang in an audacious assassination attack at the Regency Hotel in Dublin.

The lavish ceremony featured a coffin reported to cost €15,000 plus a fleet of limos to bring mourners to the church.

“There are no hard and fast rules about what is allowed,” he told RTÉ’s Liveline.

“I honestly wasn’t even aware of the extent of it until I got to the graveyard.

“There wasn’t any kind of that display in the Church… it was a quiet, respectful affair.”

Asked by host Joe Duffy if he had questioned who had paid the cost of the service, Fr Coughlan said he “hadn’t given it a thought.”

“I was there to attend to the job at hand… I don’t want to comment on that sort of stuff.”

He added: “I went to say the prayers as I would for any family.”

Declining to comment when asked if Byrne’s family had sought to defend their son and his criminal activities, Fr Coughlan told host Joe that all he saw was a family left devastated by the loss of a loved one.

“Their grief was as raw as any I’ve seen in 23 years of being a priest. It was as real as anyone else’s.”

Fr Coughlan said he was asked to officiate David Byrne’s funeral by his grandmother, who he described as a “lovely woman, who was very faithful to her church.”

“I buried two of her daughters… [and] when people are grieving they go back to the person they knew from the past.”

He continued, saying it had never entered his mind to decline the offer.

During the service, Fr Coughlan spoke directly to those who have committed the murders at the heart of this feud, condemning their acts and speaking to Sean O'Rourke today on Radio 1, the priest repeated his message.

“What I said was it doesn’t take courage to walk into a hotel or into someone’s home and blast a defenceless person to death.

“What is courageous is someone willing to put their head above the parapet and call for an end to this despicable destruction of human life.

“What I did say also was they might be a lonely voice in their own little world but for the people of south and north inner city Dublin who’ve greatly suffered at their hands, and not just by the recent violence either, but by the drug scourge that has been in this city. These wonderful people, and they really are wonderful people in our inner city, if this person would only raise their head above the parapet, they would be the hero. That would take courage but it doesn’t take courage to blast a person to death.”