Godfather makes his last exit to the sound of music

FIVE DAYS after he was gunned down in broad daylight on a Dublin street, Ireland's most notorious criminal godfather of the past two decades received a more dignified send-off than that accorded him by his IRA executioners.

As his coffin was lowered into the open grave, a dozen of Martin Cahill's relatives quietly began singing, led by a male relative strumming a guitar: 'Que sera sera, whatever will be, will be. The future's not ours to see, Que sera sera.'

One of his daughters began sobbing as a second, more confident chorus, was carried by the light breeze between the high trees and grandiose Victorian mausoleums of Dublin's Mount Jerome Cemetery out to the hundreds packing the neighbouring pathways.

Over the heads of the mourners, 30 large wreaths were then passed to the graveside. They ranged from three making up 'Que Sera Sera', to 'Martin' in red flowers on white daisies, and a large 'Granda'. One from 'The Premier' came from his pigeon club.

Ten gleaming black Mercedes stretch limousines carried the large Cahill family from funeral Mass amid the ornate splendour of the Church of Mary Immaculate, Our Lady of Refuge in Rathmines.

There, beneath its brightly-coloured vaulted ceilings and huge baroque dome, every level of the Dublin criminal hierarchy was plain to see.

His immediate family, led by his wife Frances, her sister Tina, and his three sons and two daughters, were immaculate in new black suits. Behind them sat three rows of close acquaintances, all strikingly dressed in black or brown leather jackets. A small thin elderly man, his shirt collar worn through, carried a single bouquet.

Cahill may have milked fortunes from a life of carefully-executed robberies and kidnappings. Others in his shadowy world had clearly had briefer, leaner pickings.

Most striking were the taut serious faces of the numerous young men with close-cropped hair, one or two bearing long scar marks, recalling the fierce discipline imposed within Cahill's armed raiders' ranks. (He once had an associate nailed to a floor after he was suspected of siphoning off gold from a jewellery factory raid).

A few in newer leathers wore conspicuous heavy gold rings mounted with sovereigns or multiple stones. As the host was distributed, they looked nervously around at familiar underworld faces among the 700-strong congregation, among them an old boys' network of prison graduates from Cahill's former residences, Mountjoy and the tough regime of Cork's Spike Island.

The family group in the front rows was short of five of the General's brothers from his eleven siblings.

Two had preceded him to the grave (one died of a drugs overdose in prison), while two of three others currently in jail rejected governors' offers of a day's leave to view the remains, according to a Department of Justice spokeswoman. None of the prisoners were allowed out for the funeral Mass. Leading six priests in celebrating Mass, Father Jim Caffrey deftly avoided condemnation, referring to the earlier biblical lesson telling how Jesus made demands too great for some to fulfil. Christ's followers 'are free to reject or accept his message. Many find He asks too much of them,' he said. 'The way of violence can only lead to death,' Fr Caffrey argued, urging his listeners away from more bloodshed. 'Choose life, not death, choose forgiveness not revenge. To live this way, to break the cycle of violence, is often not the way of the coward but of the truly strong.'

A different, plaintive message came in the 1970s hit song sung at the end of the Mass by a middle- aged male relative: '(You left me) Just when I needed you most.'

Later, when the priests had completed the burial and hard men had queued to drop single red roses on the coffin, he sang again. In a graveyard which gardai had diplomatically chosen not to enter, it was now a more defiant lament, its chorus line: 'Every time you touch me I become a hero.'

There were contrasting opinions outside the church too. On leaving, two elderly inner-city women declared: 'It was a beautiful Mass.' A detective with years of unfruitful experience of trying to collar Cahill was less moved. 'He was a right mean bastard,' he said.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back