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Joe Duffy pays tribute to 'tireless and hard-working' mother Mabel at her funeral mass

“I seldom saw my mother sitting down”

Joe Duffy carries the coffin of his mother Mabel to St Matthew's Church, Ballyfermot Dublin this morning. Photo by Colin Keegan

Neil Fetherstonhaugh

A tearful Joe Duffy remembered his beloved mother Mabel as a tireless woman who worked hard all her life until her health failed her at her funeral mass in Dublin earlier today.

Speaking to the congregation at her funeral mass in St Matthew’s Church in her native Ballyfermot, the Lifeline presenter paid tribute to his mother’s life and acknowledged the hardships she had faced in the past.

Joe said that Mabel, who passed away on Sunday in Kiltipper Woods Care Centre, surrounded by her loving family at age of 92, “did not have an easy life”.

“Thank you for coming and thinking of Mabel. We have come a long way because of her lifetime,” Joe said.

“Mabel, we were blessed in your often hard life, blessed in your easy passing, and after 94 years on this earth, blessed beyond belief that you were our mother.

“So, in this church, your favourite, we say goodbye today. And like so many in your generation, Mabel, you sank the well and we drank the water.”

Joe’s fellow RTE colleagues Miriam O’Callaghan and Marty Whelan and former presenter Sean O’Rourke as well as singer Red Hurley were at the funeral mass while a representative of President Michael D Higgins was also in attendance.

Mabel had attended the church daily since it opened 45 years ago until she suffered a stroke in 2020 and moved to the care centre in Kiltipper.

Joe, who often spoke of his cherished mum on radio, recalled how his brave mother beat off would-be robbers with a curtain rail and carried the deeds to their Ballyfermot family home in her handbag.

“On the day Mabel was born in 1929 the new Dail was debating the closure of workhouses, which had existed in Ireland since before the famine.

“And it is fair to say that Mabel and her siblings with their parents did not have an easy life,” said.

“Mabel unfortunately could not recall if she made her communion or confirmation as she lived in 19 different places in Dublin city before she was 19.

“But the six girls were a strong and lively sisterhood working together in the same factories from an early age.

“My god she worked hard, long before she was married. Like so many then, rearing six children, she was very disciplined with us and herself.

“Remember this was a woman who hardly ever drank or smoke, yet insisted on buying low fat Flora for herself until the day she left Claddagh Green in November 2020.

“That being said, when we were growing up she never asked for or accepted help.

“I seldom saw my mother sitting down.”

Miriam O Callaghan arriving for the funeral mass

Joe revealed the Mabel had “enjoyed good health”, despite difficulties in recent years, after a battle with Covid, and suffering a fall in her home and a stroke whilst living alone during the pandemic.

“Even when she bet off night time intruders with her curtain rail while living alone a few years ago, Joe added.

“The brilliant Gardai in Ballyfermot wanted her to go to hospital.

“But when the paramedics arrived they discovered she had a healthier blood pressure than the assembled younger uniformed men around her,” he added.

“But her vision began to fail dramatically,” he went on and told how she went through a long regime of painful injections.

“She refused any painkillers, any. But gradually her health began to fail and frail which she found hard to accept.”

Recalling how this left her "almost clinically blind’, he added: “But falls at home and a stroke brought the inevitable.

“Andin the middle of the Covid pandemic in 2020 when St James hospital insisted she needed 24-hour help, she contracted Covid before vaccines arrived

“And she reluctantly went into Kiltipper Care Centre where she lived and was cared for brilliantly since December 2020.”

Ryan Tubridy pictured at Stafford’s Funeral Home Ballyfermot where Joe Duffy’s mother Mabel was lying in repose.

Paying tribute to his siblings, Joe thanked them for their love and support for their mother throughout her life in sickness and health.

Especially his sister, Pauline, Mabel’s only daughter.

“Us boys got the wooden spoon on the back of the leg when we mitched school, but to see Mabel branching a frying pan, with the eggs still in it, running towards Pauline was a lasting laugh I know you’ll never forget,” he joked.

The dad-of-triplets also remembered his late brother Aidan, who tragically died in a car crash in 1991, and his father Jimmy, who passed away seven years before the accident.=

Joe broke down as he told the congestion of family and friends: “Her beloved youngest Aidan was tragically killed in a car crash in 1991, aged 25. This was seven years after our father died, aged 58.

“When she died last Sunday, Mabel was six years longer a widow than she was a wife.”

He later added: “Aidan’s early death when he was on the cusp of a great life was a wound which has never healed for any of us.”

Broadcaster Joe Duffy and his mother Mabel in 2015 at the launch of his book 'Children of the Rising'. Photo: Gareth Chaney / Collins

He also recalled her pride and love of her home in Claddagh Green.

“She was 24 when her first son James was born. She was living in Mountjoy Place. But things changed dramatically in 1958, when Mabel and Jimmy's name was picked out of a lottery at City Hall and they got a house at 6 Claddagh Green.

“She moved there with James and myself, four more were to arrive later. And Jimmy headed off sporadically for work in England.

“She lived in Claddagh Green for over 60 years, refusing any other better offers. And when she eventually bought the house off the corporation, with her own money, she carried the deeds around in her handbag.”

“She loved living in Ballyfermot, her life began to improve. Which I mean, our lives.

“She loved her garden and growing rhubarb forher gorgeous tarts out the back and flowers on the front.

“She insisted on cutting her grass with her shears and a push lawnmower up to the time she was 90. “This was after she finished polishing the steps outside the hall door on her knees.

“She loved dancing, and she could move. The picture in front of the Missalette was taken at her 90th birthday with a high-speed camera as we couldn’t get her to slow down.”

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