Northern Ireland news

Warm tributes paid to former Crossmaglen parish priest following death from Covid

Fr Joe McKeever

A FORMER Crossmaglen parish priest who died after contracting coronavirus has been remembered for his kindness, humour and "passionate support" for Cross Rangers.

Fr Joe McKeever, who was originally from Portadown, died at Craigavon Area Hospital on Saturday morning.

A late vocation, he did not enter the priesthood until his 40s following a teaching career which included Drumcree High School.

Renowned for his character and wit, he was well known beyond Co Armagh.

Fr Paddy McCafferty, parish priest at Corpus Christi in Ballymurphy, lived next door to him for a period when studying at Maynooth and remembered him as "absolutely hilarious".

"A very colourful character and great company. A very kind and wise pastor too. May God rest his good and dear soul," said.

McKeever’s Bar in Portadown, which is owned by Fr Joe’s family, posted a notice on social media about the enormity of their loss.

"As I am sure most of you have now heard of the sad passing of Fr Joe McKeever.

"As you can all imagine we are all deeply saddened with this loss. Fr Joe was more than just a priest to us. He was a brother, an uncle, a teacher, a mentor, a dear dear friend to everyone.

"He will be missed more than words can convey. We love you Joe."

Crossmaglen Rangers, whom Fr Joe supported closely, said "players, members, supporters and friends are deeply saddened to learn of [his] passing.

"Fr Joe, former Parish Priest of Upper Creggan was a loyal, devoted and passionate supporter of Cross Rangers. We all have fond memories of Fr Joe enjoying many successes with us. We send our sincere condolences to the entire McKeever family at this difficult time. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam."

The Bishop of Killaloe Fintan Monahan said his former classmate would be remembered as "a man of great intellect and sharp but gentle wit".

Newry and Armagh SDLP MLA Justin McNulty added: "So sorry to hear of the passing of Fr. Joe McKeever RIP. What craic we had with him down the years around the football. And I know how well got he was amongst all his parishioners. He will be sorely missed."

A funeral notice said Fr McKeever was the beloved son of the late Sarah (Sadie) and Patsy and dear brother of Colm, Marian (Gallagher), Patricia (Gallagher), Charlie, Colette (McNally), Mark and the late Gary.

A private funeral will take place for Fr. McKeever with Requiem Mass being celebrated at a later date.

It added that his death is deeply regretted by his loving family, Archbishop Eamon Martin, Bishop Michael Router, Cardinal Seán Brady, the Priests of the Archdiocese, family circle and many friends.

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