Death of former Sinn Fein mayor who shook Queen’s hand

Sian Moloughney

Sian Moloughney

The Cashel mayor who was the first Republican to greet a British monarch on Irish soil, Michael Browne, has passed away.

Cllr Browne bravely fought a long illness and in May was at the Rock of Cashel as the mayor of the town to welcome Queen Elizabeth II to Cashel, with a warm handshake.

He died in the early hours of Sunday morning, at his sister Kay Kearney’s home in Clonoulty.

He is survived by his four sons, Sean, PJ, Liam and Micheal, and his daughter Breeda, his wife Renee having passed away three years ago.

A well known and popular councillor, Mickey was involved in many aspects of community life in Cashel, especially GAA circles.

He was associated with the GAA for more than 30 years acting as vice-chairman of Cashel King Cormacs, where he was a member of the senior committee of the club, a selector with senior and other teams and a delegate to the West Board and the county conventions over many years.

He was also an important fundraiser, more recently involved with the club lotto.

Cllr Browne was involved with Cashel Camogie Club of which he was chairman for a year and a selector the first time the club won the All Ireland club championship in 2007. He served as chairman of the County Camogie Board in 2009-2010.

The Club expressed its condolences to the family, friends, neighbours and all those people who had the privilege of knowing the late Michael Browne.

“Michael will be sadly missed on the GAA and camogie scene. He proudly and bravely took the position of chairperson of Tipperary County Board for the years commencing 2009 and 2010. Cashel Camogie Club was proud to have Michael as Chairperson during 2008, prior to taking up his position as County Tipperary Chairperson.”

Political tributes to the former mayor were led by his party leader, Deputy Gerry Adams, and the mayor of Cashel, Cllr Maribel Wood.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams extended his sympathy to the family of Cllr Browne. He said his death is a loss for his family, for the people of Cashel and for Sinn Féin.

The members of Cashel Town Council met for a special meeting on Tuesday evening to pay tribute to their deceased colleague and pass a vote of sympathy to his family. They will also be providing a guard of honour at the funeral.

Mayor Maribel Wood worked very closely with Cllr Browne, as his deputy mayor, since he became ill last February. She described the former mayor as very loyal and a straight, clear talker, who was always very positive. “He advised me and was a friend. He made time for people.

“When he shook hands with the Queen he put the town first. He had set his mind to be there for the Queen’s visit, and he had a very determined and strong mind. On the Rock he was so happy and confident and he knew what he wanted to do. He shook hands and said ‘welcome to Cashel.’”

Reflecting on the loss of Cllr Browne, and Cllr Martin Browne in May, Mayor Wood said: “It really makes you think about life when you have to say goodbye to two councillors.”

The mayor said her friend had lived life to the full until his last day and had never complained. “I will always miss him,” she said.

Labour MEP Phil Prendergast also extended her sympathies to the family and friends of the late mayor. “I was greatly saddened to hear of Michael’s death. I’ve known him for many years and he was always a genuine and compassionate man.

“He was also a politician dedicated to serving his constituents in Cashel and committed to republican socialist ideals. But he was not bound by ideology nor given to gesture politics. He showed this when he defied his party by greeting Queen Elizabeth II on her historic visit to Cashel last May. He is regarded as the first republican to greet a British monarch on Irish soil.

Cllr Browne’s death is the second loss for Cashel Town Council in less than two months. On May 10 the council, and town, were shocked by the sudden death of Cllr Martin Browne. His son Martin has taken his father’s seat on the council.

The co-option of a new councillor, to take the seat held by Cllr Michael Browne, will be a matter for the September meeting of Cashel Town Council.

Cllr Browne’s remains reposed at his sister’s residence in Clonoulty, on Tuesday, before removal to St John the Baptist Church, Cashel, this morning, Wednesday, at 11am for Funeral Mass at 12 noon. Interment afterwards in Cormack’s Cemetery.