Former public servant Dr Maurice Hayes has been remembered as a diamond standard citizen and servant of the people.
Hundreds of people attended his funeral in St Patrick’s Church, Downpatrick, Co Down following his death aged 90 two days before Christmas.
In a heartfelt homily by Dr Hayes’ former school pupil and lifelong friend, Canon Sean Rogan said he detested hypocrisy, he had a tolerance of diverse political opinions and the utmost respect for people of different faiths.
“Maurice Hayes was diamond standard – a many-faceted life full of colour and intensity and brilliance. Truly a prismed person,” the priest said.
Canon Rogan added: “Hypocrisy he loathed, whether in the realms of politics or religion.
“And in delicate negotiations and discussions, he hated the word ‘fudge’ which could have connotations of perhaps deceit or under-handedness. He saw intransigence as conceived in weakness but magnanimity born of strength.
“Pragmatic accommodation was what he sought.”
Dr Hayes had a key role in policing reform in Northern Ireland through his work with the Patten Commission and he was the first Catholic appointed as Northern Ireland Ombudsman.
Born in Co Down in 1927, he held many senior roles in the civil service, including as permanent secretary of the department of health at Stormont and in the power-sharing executive in the 1970s.
He was nominated by former taoiseach Bertie Ahern to the Irish Senate in 1997.
Among the dignitaries at the funeral were President of Ireland Michael D Higgins, Independent Unionist MP Lady Sylvia Hermon and David Sterling, head of the Northern Ireland civil service. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was represented by his aide de camps.
Bishop Noel Treanor also paid a glowing tribute and said Dr Hayes made an immense contribution to the societal, cultural and political arenas across Ireland.
“Maurice espoused the highest ideals and virtues of citizenship. He will be remembered for his capacity to respectfully bring together diverse political opinion and ideas,” he said.
Dr Hayes is survived by his wife Joan and his five children, Clodagh, Margaret, Dara, Garrett and Ronan and their families.
As well as his public life, he was also well regarded for his support for the Irish language, the GAA and the Ireland Fund.
Bishop Treanor said: “Motivated by faith, strengthened by personal integrity and responsive to the prevailing social and community concerns, Maurice was received well by all across the community, throughout Ireland and Europe.”
Dr Hayes taught Canon Rogan in St Patrick’s Grammar School, Downpatrick and the two men were lifelong friends, mourners heard.
Born in Killough Co Down, he was an Irish and English teacher, a town clerk and chairman of the Community Relations Commission and held the key positions in the Northern Ireland civil service.
Canon Rogan said his friend had a keen sense of justice, fairness and compassion for all, especially the oppressed.
“Maurice Hayes was a giant who strode the stage of life in so many and varied roles - but always the same Maurice of integrity, honesty and humility,” he said.
Canon Rogan added: “Maurice has left a legacy - but might I suggest his greatest legacy is here today - just as he would have wanted it.
“People of different faiths, culture, political affiliations gathered together as one. E pluribus unum - from the many, one - as written, until a few days ago, on most United States of America coinage.”