Cowen mum’s final farewell
PARTY POLITICAL BROTHERS BARRY AND BRIAN JOIN FAMILY AS MOTHER IS LAID TO REST
Former Fianna Fáil Taoiseach Brian Cowen and former Minister for Agriculture Barry Cowen attended their mother May's funeral in Clare yesterday where she was remembered for her "strength to keep going".
Mary 'May' Cowen died peacefully at her home in Clara on Thursday following a period of illness.
She was remembered by parish priest Fr Joseph Deegan for her strong faith, which allowed her to support the political careers of two sons and her husband Ber.
"That had to be fed by her faith, giving her strength to keep going. Quietly supporting the political careers of her husband Ber, Brian and Barry and keeping an eye on Christy there at home, with a sure and solid motherly loving and wisdom," Fr Deegan said.
Mrs Cowen's closest family and friends attended the funeral and due to Covid-19 restrictions, the congregation was limited to 50, with parishioners also paying their respects outside of St Brigid's Church in Clara.
Her sons Brian, Barry and Christy were sitting with their families in the front pews and former Taoiseach Brian Cowen attended the funeral in a wheelchair due to suffering a stroke just over a year ago.
He was sitting to the right of the coffin, which had a large bouquet of white flowers placed on top beside a photo of Mrs Cowen.
Her other son Barry, who had recently been sacked as Agriculture Minister after it was revealed he received a drink-drive ban four years ago, sat alongside.
He had earlier sent a tweet condemning radio station Today FM after they posted a jokey reference to him, with a picture of him in his car over a story entitled, 'Calls for reverse around the corner to be replaced by parallel parking in driving test'.
Cowen tweeted that he 'wouldn't normally comment on these matters' but decided to do so comment publicly on this occasion.
He wrote: "I'm in public life subject to scrutiny/accountability. But as I get ready for my mother's funeral & to be shown this by my children…I'd have thought maybe not today…but no, thanks for nothing Today FM."
In response the radio station tweeted that the posting of the image "was a genuine human error and was rectified as soon as it was brought to our attention".
"We apologise for this error and any offence it may have caused," they added.
"Sincere condolences to you and your family on your loss."
However, the tweet was widely condemned by others on social media, with one person describing it as "a hollow apology".
Inside the church the congregation wore face coverings throughout the Mass, which was streamed online.
Fr Deegan said Mrs Cowen found "joy" in her sons' and husband's political careers as well as "sadness".
"Finding joy in their careers in the glorious moments and also feeling the sadness I'm sure for them, in their struggles and their disappointments."
Offaly TD Barry Cowen was fired from his ministerial position by Taoiseach Micheál Martin in the wake of his drink-driving controversy in July.
Mrs Cowen found the death of her husband, a sitting Fianna Fáil TD, in 1984 "very painful".
"The strong faith that she had to rely upon I'm sure was her support in that very painful and shocking experience at the sudden and untimely death of her husband Ber," said Fr Deegan.
"Helping her to carry on the work in rearing her family, keeping the family business going, the pub, the butchers, the undertakers."
She was also described as a "loving grandmother to beloved grandchildren" and was "always warm" even when she faced her own challenges.
"Not without difficulty, having to carry her own cross of sickness and suffering in the last 14 years or so. Must have been hard going at times but again, she did so with dignity and the strength of her faith to help her," he added.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent in 2017, Barry Cowen said that his mother stood at the head of the family and was "battle hardened".
"She would always say 'you are elected by the people, you are elected by your constituents, you work for your constituents and hard work will be rewarded.
"And if you take your eye off the ball, if you neglect your work, if you leave yourself vulnerable and open, you lose your job'," he said.
"She understands you're only as good as your last election. It could be around the corner at any time, on any day, and that comes from a woman who was married to a person who, in the Eighties, did three elections in 18 months, and the difficulties that brings."
Mrs Cowen was laid to rest in the Monastery Cemetery in Clara and is survived by her sons, Christy, Brian and Barry, sisters Patsy Nolan (USA) and Nuala Farley (USA), grandchildren Jane, Stephen, Sinead, Meadbh, Gemma, Lorcan, Eoin and Aoibhe, daughters in law Mary (Tullamore), Mary (Clara) and Ann (Clara), brother in law, sister in law, cousins, nephews, nieces, relatives, neighbours and friends.