Homily of Father Phil Gaffney at the Funeral Mass for Keane Mulready Woods RIP

13 Feb 2020

Good morning and welcome to Holy Family Church, Ballsgrove.  I want first of all to offer the deepest and most prayerful sympathies of everyone here on the death of Keane Mulready Woods.  I welcome his family here this morning, his Mam and Dad, Elizabeth & Barry, his sister Courtney, his brothers Darren, Ryan & Jack and his extended family.

To bury our dead with dignity is a most sacred duty.  The fulfilment of that duty is sometimes associated with the name of a princess in ancient Greece who was prepared to defy the decree of the king and lose her own life rather than leave her brother’s body lie unburied on the streets of the city.  And so, after all these weeks of waiting, we come here today to bury the mortal remains of Keane.  There is a great sense of relief that, at last, the waiting has come to an end.   Now the mourning can begin, and the burial take place, and proper respect be paid to his memory and prayers be offered for his eternal rest and happiness.

Our first reaction today is one of great sympathy for Keane’s parents and family for the great crime committed against a brother and a son, for the great wrong that was done to them.  Along with that there has to be great anger and even sadness, great fear and pain perhaps, at the thought that we live in a society where certain people took upon themselves to “play God” with regard to the life of Keane Mulready Woods.  They took upon themselves to be judge and jury, and executioner.  What arrogance.  What appalling wickedness and evil.  God alone is the Lord of Life – from its beginning to its end.  No-one can, under any circumstances, claim for himself, the right to directly destroy another human being!

“All violence consists in some people forcing others, under threat of suffering or death, to do what they do not want to do.”  Leo Tolstoy

To say that the death of Keane has shocked and appalled the town of Drogheda would be a total understatement.  This young man, at the time not 18 years of age, has been lost in the most gruesome way to his family.  We know that Keane’s tragic death has devastated you.  We all want to reach out to you with love and reassurance.  We all want to gather round you to uphold you.  We want to mourn with you.  We want to pray with you for Keane.

Words are woefully inadequate to express the pain and sorrow in our hearts that we have for you today.  We offer our most heartfelt sympathies also to all of Keane’s relatives and family, to his young friends, and to all those who love him and mourn him.  May he rest in peace.  This young man, has been lost in the most gruesome way to his family.

We pray that he will find eternal rest and that his family will be granted the strength to cope with their monumental loss.  This murder has brought about an unparalleled level of revulsion, not alone in Drogheda, but throughout our country and, indeed, far beyond.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all whose hearts are broken.  This great gift of life we have received from God our creator is a treasure.  It is precious but it is fragile.  When death comes to someone young and under tragic circumstances as Keane’s, it robs us of not only what we possess but of our hopes and dreams, so many plans, so many expectations, can be no more.  No mother expects to bury her child no matter what the age.

Keane had his troubles and was young and naive enough to fall in with the wrong people, not knowing or anticipating the dire consequences.  I hope that his death will be a warning to other young teenagers who are been groomed by the ruthless criminals, that the promise of money and gifts will inevitably end in tragedy.  Keane’s association with them, sadly, led to the inhuman, unthinkable way in which his young life was to end.

This feud in Drogheda has to end sometime.  Let’s all hope and pray it ends before more lives are lost.  Speaking to RTÉ News after our prayer service, our bishop, Bishop Tom Deenihan, said enough people had suffered and that violence “leads to nowhere” and that no family should have to go through this pain and suffering.  He said the sheer violence of the teenager’s death reverberated around the country and “caused everybody to pause”.In the Gospels, Jesus says to Keane’s family and friends: “Come to me all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest.”  And in these sad circumstances, we all need rest and comfort and reassurance and light.  The God of whom Jesus speaks is not cruel or vengeful.

The God whom Jesus reveals is loving, merciful and just. “Come to me and I will give you rest.”  The God of whom Jesus speaks, whom we know as Our Father, only wants the good for his children, in this life, and in the world to come.  And so God created us for life and freedom.

In the resurrection, our bodies will be glorified and will be filled with eternal life.  This is the hope that Jesus Christ – and He alone – holds out to us.

In the Scriptures, the book of Ecclesiastes speaks of life within a framework of time.  It says, “There is a right time for everything”.  And then it gives us a long list of events for which there is an appropriate time.  At the top of the list is this statement: “A time to be born, a time to die”.

And this is what confuses us now.  Keane’s death seems so utterly inappropriate.  It violates our sense of order.  In our view of life, death and childhood are poles apart, and seventeen years simply does not seem the right time to die – it does not seem to add up.

Secondly, there are many things in life that become so much a part of a home that their absence leaves a void.  It may be a picture that hangs on the wall, a familiar footstep, but nothing becomes so indispensable as a young person and when they are taken away so cruelly the hurt is indescribable.  It is an hour of heartache, a time of tears. 

Thirdly I feel, what we most need to hear.  It is Faith.  Saint Paul speaks of times in life when “we must walk by faith because we cannot walk by sight”.  This is one of those times.  There is no way for us to see and think our way through an hour such as we now face.  Within the scope of human reason, a tragedy such as this simply doesn’t make sense.  Therefore we either despair or find our strength in faith.

I want to say a special word of condolence to Keane’s young friends.  I know how much his death will affect you.  He will be so pleased that you remember him with fondness and that you are shedding tears for him.  It is good that you will never forget him and that you will always remember him in prayer.  Just as his life was opening up, cruel fate took him away.

Please learn from his mistakes, getting involved with dangerous criminals, thinking some of them were his friends and yet they would sacrifice him in such a brutal manner.  But you can be sure that he has not dropped into nothingness or non-existence.  He has gone to God who will love and protect him until you see him again in the life of the world to come.  We ask God to forgive him for his faults and failings and to be merciful to him.

It goes without saying that you will never forget him.  You will always mourn for him.  You will always feel the searing pain of his loss and you will always cry for him especially in your intimate moments.  With tearful hearts, but with faith and hope, today you place him again in God’s hands from whom he came and to whom we are all destined to return.  May he rest in peace.

Drugs have become extremely easy for young people to obtain.  Recently someone commented that “A lot of people are now budgeting for their debs – as well as their clothes and drink – they’re also budgeting now for cocaine, and other drugs.  It isn’t just communities with deprived socio-economic backgrounds that are worse for illegal drug taking, it has become “socially acceptable” across the country among people from all backgrounds.

These violent incidents need to be a wake-up call for all of us as a society to realise that actions have consequences.  People who are taking drugs on a social basis have to realise that what they are doing is fuelling this situation of violence.  The problem arises from the ‘normalisation’ of a drugs culture here in Ireland.  Drug taking, “doing a line of coke”, has become as normal as having a drink.  We need a nationwide response from our Government.

This third drug-feud related killing in the area of Keane Mulready Woods “spread fear throughout the community that anybody could carry out such an act of brutality.  This murder has really brought about an unparalleled level of revulsion throughout the country…”

Our Gardaí have been doing their best in the most difficult circumstances to cope with the effects of this feud on the town and its environs.  They deserve all our help and support in their efforts in whatever way we can.

We, the priests in Holy Family parish, along with our bishop, appeal once again – as we have done in the past to those responsible: In the name of God let it end now.

A quotation from the recently deceased Seamus Mallon in a speech in Westminster seems appropriate today:

‘It is only when people realise the utter obscenity of violence that violence will end’ – advice given to him by his father Frank.

‘The only weapons that should ever be used in this community are words’.


  • Father Phil Gaffney is Parish Priest of Drogheda, Saint Mary’s in the Diocese of Meath. This Funeral Mass will take place today at 11.00am in the Holy Family Church, Ballsgrove.