Northern Ireland news

Tributes to 'gentle' west Belfast Redemptorist Fr Phil Dunlea

Fr Phil Dunlea, who had been based at Clonard for the past 17 years, died suddenly on Tuesday
Marie Louise McConville

TRIBUTES have been paid to a west Belfast Redemptorist who died suddenly just minutes before he was due to say Mass at Clonard.

Fr Phil Dunlea was making coffee for the Redemptorist community at about 6.45am on Tuesday when he collapsed in a small dining room in the monastery.

The 84-year-old, who was originally from Rathkeale in Co Limerick and grew up in Cork, had been based at Clonard for the past 17 years.

He was ordained in 1962 and, before joining the Clonard community in 2002, he had been based for nine years at St Gerard's on Antrim Road where he was a curate.

Clonard Rector Fr Peter Burns said the Redemptorist community had been left "shaken by the suddenness" of Fr Dunlea's death.

"Our community woke up yesterday morning to the death of one of our confreres unexpectedly," he said.

"He was getting ready to say the 7am Mass. He was making coffee in the small dining room and just collapsed and died on the floor."

"He was a very quiet but a very easy presence in our community and we are very shaken by the suddenness of his death," he added.

Fr Dunlea's remains are reposing in Clonard Monastery and will remain there until 5.30pm today.

Fr Burns said people were "very welcome to come and pay their respects".

Tributes were also paid to Fr Dunlea online, with one woman describing him as "very soothing and sincere" while another said he had been a "gentle and spiritual support".

Another person described him as "such a kind, clever, loving man – an example to the world".

Fr Dunlea's remains will be removed to Clonard Church at 5.30pm today for 6.15pm Mass.

Requiem Mass will take place tomorrow at noon at Clonard Church.

He will be laid to rest afterwards in the Redemptorist plot at Milltown Cemetery.

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