Father Donal Roche called it the most disturbing funeral he has ever attended, a homage to a life of crime played like a scene from The Sopranos.
Dean Maguire, 29, an Irish burglar with more than 25 convictions, had died in fiery motorway crash and mourners decided to give a memorable farewell.
Some blocked off roads leading to St Mary’s Priory Catholic church in Tallaght, west Dublin, while throngs piled into the church, flouting Ireland’s Covid-19 rules.
A screwdriver and a torch, tools of a nocturnal trade, were carried to the altar.
A poster paid tribute in rhyme. “RIP Dean. You know the score, get on the floor, don’t be funny, give me the money.”
Mourners who made eulogies said Maguire would not be forgotten. “Sorry for the language, Father – rest in peace, you fucking legend,” said one woman.
The atmosphere was highly charged, said Roche, who tried in vain to control the numbers entering the church while a colleague officiated at the mass.
“It was the most disturbing liturgy I have ever been at. There was a sense of restlessness, and the priest officiating was up against it,” he told RTE. “I didn’t feel in that much danger … but I did wonder, am I going to get a belt here?”
Since details of the mass last Friday seeped into the media there has been a public outcry at the glorification of criminals during funerals.
Diarmuid Martin, a former archbishop of Dublin, previously vowed that churches would not host such displays. Roche said he had no warning about the tributes to Maguire. When he phoned the police he was told their presence would inflame the situation and that officers would come only if there was a criminal act.
Gardaí are investigating videos that appear to show the hearse and some accompanying cars speeding and jumping traffic lights.
Maguire, who was wanted by British police, died on 7 July along with Graham Taylor and Carl Freeman when the BMW they were travelling in crashed into a truck on the N7, leaving the truck driver injured.
They were driving the wrong way up the motorway after fleeing from police. The trio were reportedly part of the same burglary gang, with more than 200 convictions between them.
Freeman was buried on Monday after a funeral procession with a horse-drawn hearse escorted by scrambler bikes.