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‘They came & they went but none of them came better than Canon Taaffe’

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Canon Pat Taaffe was remembered as a warm, witty and engaging man for whom family and prayer remained the most important things in life as he made significant contributions to communities across the county.

Born on Christmas Eve, Canon Pat died on February 29th a leap year at the age of ninety. A native of Tubber, he served as a priest in the Diocese of Killaloe for sixty four years. Warm tributes have been extended to Taaffe since his passing with hundreds attending Tuesday’s funeral mass at Ennis Cathedral along with 57 priests and 21 altar servers.

Following his ordination, Pat’s first appointment was on temporary mission to the Diocese of St Augustine in Florida. Upon his return in 1961, he was appointed curate in Doonbeg where he stayed for twelve years. He was based in Ennis and Portarlington in the 1970s before becoming parist priest of Corofin, Kilnaboy and Rath in 1990. Two years on, he was made a Canon of the Cathedral Chapter and a decade later in June 2003, he retired as parish priest and returned to serve as an assistant priest in Ennis where he ministered until last year.

Symbols of his love of prayer and family were brought to the altar as part of the offertory along with a painting of his life by Noreen Flynn. “For Canon Pat, family was very important, each Sunday he would go back home to Tubber to meet with family,” Fr Tom Ryan stated. Sport was also a keen interest in his life as Fr Ryan outlined. “The football tells the story of his great love for Doonbeg”.

His nephew Eamon scored the winning goal as Clare claimed the All-Ireland SHC title in 1995 for the first time since 1914. The hurley with which Taaffe scored was also brought to the altar. “The hurley that scored the All-Ireland winning goal of 1995. It didn’t give Canon Pat a heart attack on that day but led him to live forever,” Fr Ryan noted.

Bishop Fintan Monahan who was chief celebrant at Tuesday’s service. “We are most certainly sad and broken-hearted at his departure but deep down serene in the sure knowledge that he has gone to meet his maker in whose company he was utterly at home through many hours spent in prayer and in deep communion with the Lord”.

“For the almost four years that I’ve known Canon Pat he left a deep impression and I’m sure I will never forget him. He was gentle, peaceful, kind, witty, warm, prayerful, welcoming, engaging, you always felt he was totally present to you in conversation. He had this lovely phrase when you asked him how he was, he would say ‘all the better for seeing you’, whether he meant it or not I don’t know”.

Monsignor Seamus Horgan’s presence at the funeral was acknowledged as “a great final tribute” as the Bishop informed the congregation he returned from Rome especially “seeing as Canon Pat was so influential in he becoming a priest”. Speaking at a prayer service on Monday, Horgan described his mentor as “perpetually joyful and perpetually ageless”.

His “wonderful outreach” to people with special needs was commended by the Bishop. “Canon Pat was an excellent table companion, he was invariably deferred to to offer the prayer and in the course of conversation he was the reference point when facts needed to be checked or wise advice sought. He loved life, sport and people, he really loved his family and his native place of Tubber at the edge of the Burren. Along with all that, he had a great sense of humour and could turn a potentially difficult situation into a light hearted moment at the drop of a hat”.

A Doonbeg native sent an email to Bishop Monahan on Sunday night expressing her sadness at the death of Canon Taaffe. She recalled his influence in “starting and completing many projects” including Shanahan McNamara Memorial Park and the West Clare Drama Festival. “Our beloved parish priest, Fr Andrew McNamara was very elderly and so it fell to Fr Taaffe to run the parish, he carried out and his vocation quietly with little fanfare, he was pleasant and had the ability to bring people along with him through his quiet leadership. It was a sad day when he said goodbye to the people of Doonbeg”.

Another warm tribute to Canon Taaffe was shared from West Clare. “A lady from Doonbeg yesterday commented to Fr. Tom Fitzpatrick, ‘they came and they went but none of them came better than Canon Taaffe”. His burial took place in the grounds of Tubber Church.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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