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
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
peopleHere's what Stephen Fry would say
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Proust as Captain Laure Berthaud in 'Spiral'
tvReview: Gritty, engaging and well-acted - it’s a wonder France’s biggest TV export isn’t broadcast on a more mainstream channel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Carmichael in still from Madam Bovary trailer
film
News
i100
Sport
Serena Williams holds the Australian Open title
sportAustralia Open 2015 final report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links