Derry Hollywood star Roma Downey leads tributes to ‘dear friend’ Father Paddy O’Kane

Derry actress, author and producer Roma Downey has paid tribute to her ‘dear friend’ Fr Paddy O’Kane following his sudden death.

By Brendan McDaid
Tuesday, 29th March 2022, 9:38 am

The duo forged a strong friendship over the years, despite Roma living in the United States of America and Donegal native Fr Paddy administering in Derry.

Responding to a Derry Journal story featuring tributes to Fr Paddy, Roma said on Twitter: “Fr Paddy was such a good and dear friend, his legacy is the kindness he showed everyone .

“I loved him dearly. He will be missed by many.”

Sign up to our daily Derry Journal Today newsletter

Fr Paddy O’Kane and Roma Downey pictured at the launch of Roma’s book ‘Box of Butterflies’ back in June 2018. DER2518GS013

Tributes meanwhile have continued to pour in closer to home since the death of the much loved Donegal native was confirmed by the Derry Diocese on Monday.

Fr Paddy (73) was born in Culdaff where his father was the local postmaster. He was ordained in 1973 and served in the parishes of Moville, St Eugene’s Cathedral, Melmount and latterly Holy Family, Ballymagroarty. Next year would have marked the 50th anniversary of his ordination.

The Derry Diocese said there was a “profound sense of loss”, adding: “He was a very gracious and gifted person and we will all have special memories of him. He had a great love of poetry and literature.

“We are the better for his kindness, his humour and his wisdom. We give thanks for the many ways he has touched our lives. Please remember him and his family in your prayers.”

Tributes have also been paid by parishioners, friends and elected representatives in each of the regions where Fr Paddy served.

Foyle MP Colum Eastwood described Fr Paddy as a “man committed to his faith and to our city”.

Moville Labour Councillor Martin Farren said that Fr Paddy had left a lasting impression: “Fr Paddy was a very good priest and also a real gentleman. He was very good to everyone and had a great connection with people.

“He was considerate towards everybody and generous - when I was President of St Vincent DePaul here he would come up to the house and give me an amount of money out of his own pocket. He was that type of person. His death leaves an air of sadness here in Moville as he made such an impact and it’ll be the same across Inishowen and in Derry, everywhere he went.”

Derry Sinn Féin Council Group Leader Sandra Duffy described Fr Paddy as “a wonderful, kind and generous man who always seen the good in people”.

She added that he was also “a huge character who did everything he could to improve the lives of others”.

Fr. Paddy was “a tremendous servant” of the people of Ballymagroarty, said SDLP representative Mark H Durkan.

“He never shied away from problems and I worked alongside him on many issues of importance to the people of Ballymac and beyond - from riding alongside him on buses to ensure they weren’t attacked, helping vulnerable constituents in poverty and with other problems, to doing a parachute jump together for Foyle Hospice.

“He really was a force of nature, deeply spiritual, completely compassionate and any Holy Family parishioners will remember his fondness for telling funny stories and jokes. He did what he had to to get his message across and I don’t think I’ve heard anyone do it as well.”

The Executive Director of Derry charity Children In Crossfire, Richard Moore also paid tribute to the Holy Family Parish Priest.

Mr Moore said: “I am so sorry to learn that Fr Paddy O’Kane has died. He was a genuinely engaging character who brought great charisma and energy to his ministry. He was also a terrific supporter of Children in Crossfire, especially of our annual Advent Appeal.

“My thoughts and prayers are with Fr Paddy’s family, his fellow priests and all his Holy Family parishioners. He will be sorely missed.”

His sentiments were echoed by neighbouring parishes in Derry. The Parish of the Three Patrons in a statement said: “Fr Paddy was well loved and respected near and far for his loving and wholehearted dedication to his priestly ministry and pastoral care to so many people, especially in times of trouble and great suffering.

“We will miss his words of wisdom, kind heart and good humour. May the Lord reward his good and faithful service and bring him the perfect peace he longed for.”

And back in Fr. O’Kane’s native Culdaff there was also a deep sense of loss yesterday. Local Fine Gael Colr. Johnny McGuinness said: “Everyone is a bit in shock. He was such a larger than life character.

“He will be sorely missed, especially by his family here and his parishioners in Ballymagroarty and beyond. Our thoughts are with his family at this sad time.”

Funeral arrangements were still being finalised at the time of going to press.