Watching Shane McGowans funeral Mass in Nenagh was, for me, one of the most moving experiences of recent times.

I did not know Shane, and encountered him only once, several years ago when he was making his way, painfully but persistently, down the aisle of an Aer Lingus flight, to his seat in the rear half of the plane. He was accompanied by his wife, who helped him , without diminishing his independence. Like millions of other people, I am a fan of his music, especially the poetry in his lyrics.

The aspect of Shane’s funeral that moved me the most was the lovely tribute paid to him by his wife, Victoria Mary Clarke. She emphasised the depth of Shane’s Catholic faith, as well as his deep respect for, and knowledge of, other faiths and philosophies. This faith brought him strength, perspective, and calmness in facing his own death.

Victoria stressed Shane’s belief in forgiveness, the centrepiece of our Christian faith. This message is critically important today when so many ostensibly unforgiveable things are being done, ranging from domestic abuse to crimes against humanity. Forgiveness must of course be accompanied by accountability, and finding a good way to do that will be both difficult and essential.