This morning’s funeral mass of Tras Honan heard she was a beacon of hope, justice and equality and, through her strong beliefs and perseverance, she broke barriers.
Her son, TV Honan told mourners at St Joseph’s Church, Ennis on Thursday of last week the word ‘formidable’ had been used many times to describe his mother, and both he, his sister Ann, father Derry and the extended family could testify to that.
Describing his mother’s passing he said, “a giant tree has fallen gently in the forest in the loving hands of the gentle team at Kilbarry Care Centre in Waterford.”
“Tras was a republican in every sense of the word. She believed in the value of the state, and the people in the state, and if people needed a hand, they should get it. Now we are here to give Tras a hand and bring her back to Derry. Tras is and will remain our lovely rose of Clare,” he said.
He told of how she was very proud of the family pub (Honan’s on O’Connell Square) recalling how she would sweep it down in the morning, send her children off to school and then proceed to drop two drinks down to Sill and John at McNamara’s Bakery as they finished their shift joking “she was ahead of her time with click and collect”.
She was aged 20 when she first came to live in county Clare having lived in six Irish towns with her family. Hers was a nomadic family who were part of building a young state with her father involved in the construction of Dublin’s Pigeon House (generation station), Ardnacrusha (Shannon hydroelectric scheme), and the nation’s sugar factories.
“Tras would say ‘Clare people were good to me’, and meeting her husband, Derry was part of her happiness here. She loved Derry. They were very different people…he was not prone to displays of affection but you would know by the way that he looked at her (he loved her),” he recalled.
Mr Honan added that he and his sister were very lucky because of the way their parents minded them, and their friends too. One of her greatest achievements in life was St Anne’s and St Clare’s schools, and together with great ladies they advocated for the children and their families and established the special needs schools, but the drive and vision came from Tras. And they did more than set up a school, they offered a light to the children and their families, Mr Honan said.
To laughter from her family and friends, he noted her one exception was her driving. If she arrived at a junction, she responded like she did in life – if she didn’t see it, it was not there. And it was her ability to stick with things, that got her elected, first with Ennis Urban District Council and then to the Seanad where she and her sister, Carrie (Acheson) were the first two sisters serving in the Oireachtas at the same time.
When she retired and moved to Waterford “most women would settle for doing the garden, but not Tras” he said. Instead, she set about establishing up a CIE bus station there handling a big local objector in the process and then became Chairperson of Bus Éireann. And 20 years on, the local bus station is still there. “There were always people there at the end of the battle – that was the way with Tras,” he said.
He also told the congregation, Mayor of Ennis, Councillor, Pat Daly (FF) paid tribute to her saying you could have a political row with Tras, and she would still remain friends with you.
“Tras was a great admirer of the Defence Forces and I know if she was here herself, she would welcome them in their own right as officers of Oglaigh na h Éireann,” her son said.
President Michael D Higgins was represented by Colonel Stephen Power, and An Taoiseach and An Tánaiste by Commandant Clare Mortimer. Past and present members of the Oireachtas and Clare County Council were also in attendance.
Bishop Emeritus Willie Walsh con-celebrated the requiem mass and read from the gospel according to St Matthew. Parish Priest of St Joseph’s, Father Tom Ryan told the congregation Tras had devoted her life to the less well-off in the town of Ennis and sympathised with her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, brother Aidan Barlow, and the wider Barlow family.
He said the gospel of the day was for the feast of St Andrew and was about the calling of the disciples. He said when Tras was called to this life, God gave her talents, and she put them to good use, and represented the town of Ennis, county Clare, and her country using those talents many times over, and serving on two occasions in Seanad Éireann. Her late sister, Carrie Acheson also did and they were the first sisters to have served in the Oireachtas together at the same time.
The only woman to serve as Cathaoirleach of the Seanad since the foundation of the state, she was also the first woman to be elected to Ennis Urban District Council in 1979 where she served for 15 years. She was one of the founding members of Ennis and District Soroptimists doing great advocacy work as part of that organisation. She also spearheaded county Clare’s Foundation for the Mentally Handicapped and was a driving force in establishing St Clare’s and St Anne’s school, Fr Ryan noted the schools’ two principals who were present at the Mass, were deeply grateful to her. Tras’s late husband Derry Honan and father-in-law TV Honan both also served at Seanad Éireann and Ennis Urban District Council.
Father Ryan described her as a beacon of hope, justice and equality and, through her strong beliefs and perseverance, she broke barriers. Tras, whilst not expecting to solve every problem, didn’t shirk from responsibility but welcomed it. He said the success of St Clare’s and St Anne’s schools serving pupils and supporting their families in Ennis and throughout county Clare were a testimony to Tras Honan’s vision to improve their realities and make dreams come true.
Sharon Dolan D'Arcy
Sharon Dolan D'Arcy is originally from Ennis. Her work as a print journalist has appeared in a number of regional publications. She worked as court reporter at The Sligo Weekender newspaper and is a former editor of The Athenry News and Views. She covers West Clare news.