Crowds of mourners gathered in east Belfast this afternoon for the funeral of a respected judge who chaired the historical institutional abuse inquiry .
Retired High Court judge Sir Anthony Hart passed away in St Thomas Hospital, London last week after suffering a severe heart attack.
He is survived by his wife Mary and children Patrick, Fiona, Katherine and David.
In 2017, Sir Anthony published a report recommending compensation ranging from £7,500 to £100,000 to those who suffered neglect and abuse at children’s homes run by religious orders and the state between 1922 to 1995.
Addressing mourners at the funeral service in St Mark’s, Dundela, Bishop of Clogher, the Rt Rev John McDowell praised Sir Anthony’s work on the inquiry as “a prodigy of organisational skill, forensic ability and, indispensably, of human sympathy, which I think in some ways helped towards healing the manifestly inhuman treatment that was so painfully recounted in that inquiry room day by day”.
While he said that Sir Anthony was best known for his legal career, Rev McDowell added that “faith and devotion” were at the quiet centre of his life.
He described Sir Anthony as a “Christian gentleman” who had “deep roots” in Fermanagh, as well as “beautiful manners” that were the product of “a rather old fashioned upbringing” and also of his time in Portora Royal School, Enniskillen.
Rev McDowell added: “I have absolutely no doubt that it was his faith and his upbringing, in what was then a rather out of the way place, that were the foundations of his character and his integrity. That is, a wholly integrated personality, all the working parts meshing together in honesty and candour and fun.”
Mourners also heard that there were two places where Sir Anthony was happiest; the jetty and in his home.
“Rowing was Tony’s passion and he supported the Portora boats and in the past few years the Enniskillen Royal Grammar School rowers by his presence, by his enthusiasm and with his substance,” Rev McDowell added.
“If you wanted to see Tony in his natural habitat and in the fullness of his natural personality then all you had to do was to watch him at the Erne Head as a Portora or an ERGS boat pulled away of a Coleraine Inst eight.”
However, mourners were told that most important aspect of Tony’s life was his family.
Rev McDowell said: “Tony a rather reserved Fermanagh boy, and Mary the outgoing girl from the county Cork. Well Fermanagh is definitely not Cork yet in that wonderful alchemy which we call romantic love they met, they mingled and they became as two minds with but a single thought as Tony and Mary. Who here could ever think of one without the other?
“And I know that Tony would definitely never forgive me if I didn’t both say that Mary was the very love of his life, the very best of home makers and a wonderful companion through every phase of their lives.”
He also told how Sir Anthony was “a hero” to his children Patrick, Fiona, Katherine and David, adding: “Despite what could so easily have been the crushing demands of public life, Tony always made time to do the ordinary things-family outings to the cinema or to the park. Giving time always when it was needed.
“He was your hero and you loved him with your whole heart, just as he loved you.”
Committal will take place tomorrow at 2pm at Devenish Parish Churchyard, Monea, Co Fermanagh.