Tommie Gorman was ‘unique force’ with ‘hope for better future’, funeral hears (2024)

History will judge kindly the role veteran journalist Tommie Gorman played in striving for a better future, his funeral has heard.

Taoiseach Simon Harris and Northern Ireland First Minister Michelle O’Neill were among those who gathered in Co Sligo on Saturday afternoon to pay their respects at the service for the well-respected former RTE broadcaster.

Former Stormont first ministers Peter Robinson and Dame Arlene Foster, ex-Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and RTE director general Kevin Bakhurst also joined mourners at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in Ransboro.

Gorman, a married father of two, died on Tuesday at the age of 68. He had endured a long battle with cancer, having first been diagnosed in 1994.

His widow Ceara and children Moya and Joe all participated in Saturday’s service. The church was full to capacity, with many mourners congregating outside to listen on loudspeakers.

Ahead of the mass, players from Gorman’s beloved Sligo Rovers accompanied his cortege to the church and formed a line outside as his coffin was carried inside.

There were multiple references to the reporter’s passion for the team during the service that followed.

In a mass that was also marked with many touches of warmth and humour, parish priest and long-time friend Christopher McCrann joked that he would now be spared Gorman’s “never ending questions”.

“I won’t see him at mass here on Sunday,” he said.

“I won’t be ringing at his doorbell, and he won’t be ringing at mine. Above all, I won’t be able to tell him to stop bothering me with his never-ending questions.”

Gorman, a Sligo native, worked at RTE for more than 40 years.

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He was RTE’s Europe editor before moving to Belfast in 2001 and was its northern editor when he retired in 2021.

Later in the homily, the priest spoke of Gorman’s time in Northern Ireland and how he was driven by optimism and a desire to see people coming together.

“He was a very particular and unique force towards mediation and unity and always with a sense of great hope for a better future,” he said.

“And this influence will come alive with the passing of time and history will be pleased with the part that Tommie Gorman played.”

Fr McCrann said Gorman did not allow his illness to “be his identity”.

He praised the journalist’s “decency, honour, diplomacy, truthfulness, humility and kindness”.

“We who remain thank you Tommie Gorman, because you have walked with great nobility among us,” he said.

Fr McCrann said the local community in Sligo had lost a friend and “very, very good neighbour”.

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“As have so many people gathered here and many, many more who are not here,” he added.

“But all of us have gained because we have had the opportunity of being in some way, big or small, in contact with Tommie. We have all gained a mentor whose life witness will continue to bear fruit in our lives. He has in some way given us all part of his life, and left us part of it.”

Gorman’s daughter Moya gave the first reading of the service while his widow Ceara, accompanied by her sisters, sang a song in tribute.

His son Joe delivered a tribute on behalf of the family as the service drew toward conclusion.

He said his father was brilliant at finding a connection with people.

“I watched so many people meet Tommie for the first time and learn something new about their own lives right in front of me,” he said.

He added: “He found real joy in connecting with people and connecting deeply. It’s a great privilege that I don’t have to tell anybody here how much he cared about you – he said it to you.”

His son continued: “One of the things I keep hearing about Tommie is that he always had time for people, he never made you feel as if he had somebody more important to see, because he didn’t.

“When he was with you, he really was there in the moment listening to you and making you feel seen and heard. Those skills are the reason why people who met him just one time can remember him for a lifetime.”

Concluding the tribute, Gorman’s son said: “The last few days have been devastating for our family, for Tommie’s friends and for everybody whose lives he touched. But grief is the price we pay for love, and we more than got our money’s worth with Tommie Gorman.”

Following his death, President of Ireland Michael D Higgins described Gorman as “a trusted source of information for the public during challenging years, the fostering of peace, and all that was achieved in Anglo-Irish relations over that time”.

Apart from his political journalism, the versatile reporter also famously interviewed Roy Keane after the footballer’s row with manager Mick McCarthy at the Republic of Ireland team’s Japan 2002 World Cup training camp on the island of Saipan.

He also tracked down poet Seamus Heaney on a Greek island after he had won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Following the service, Gorman’s remains were taken to Kilmacowen Cemetery, around a mile away, for burial.

Tommie Gorman was ‘unique force’ with ‘hope for better future’, funeral hears (2024)

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