Dec Donnelly fights back tears in emotional tribute to brother at funeral: We can’t believe he’s gone

Declan Donnelly has paid an emotional tribute to his brother, as he admitted that his family still “can’t believe he’s gone”.

The TV favourite’s older brother, Father Dermott Donnelly, sadly died in hospital earlier this month after falling seriously ill.

The much loved Father, who had recently celebrated 30 years of service in the Catholic church was laid to rest on Friday, as hundreds of mourners gathered at St Mary’s Cathedral in Newcastle to say their final goodbyes, with more than 2,000 people also watching Fr Dermott’s Requiem Mass via a livestream.

In one final show of respect to his departed brother, Dec helped to carry his coffin into the cathedral, while his friend and TV partner Ant McPartlin arrived separately.

The pair hugged outside after the service, and there was applause from the mourners as the hearse pulled away.

Fr Dermott, 55, was best known for his work with young people and youth ministry, as he brought his faith to the younger generation.

Mourners at his funeral heard he was a “gifted priest” who “dedicated himself every day to the service of others”.

Paying tribute to his brother during the service, Dec fought back tears as he said: “Unfortunately today our world is a slightly worse place because Dermott is no longer with us.

“He still had so much more he wanted to do, so many more lives he needed to change.

“We can’t believe he’s gone, we still can’t understand why he’s gone – but we trust God took him because his talents were needed elsewhere.

“We as a family will miss him immeasurably.”

The star went in to thank the congregation for “all the amazing tributes and messages of support”, saying the family had been “simply overwhelmed by the kindness we’ve been shown”.

Reflecting on his childhood with, Fr Dermott, Dec explained that he had been the middle child of seven, and told how they grew up in a three-bedroom house in Newcastle, with the four boys in one room and the three girls in the other.

“Dermott and I, being the youngest boys, were confined to the bottom bunks, and on the occasions when my five or six-year-old overactive imagination created monsters under the bed, I would run out of bed, jump into Dermott’s bunk and he would calm me down in the middle of the night with stories he invented,” he said.

Dec then went on to praise his brother’s “fantastic sense of humour and fantastic sense of adventure”, and said his wish to be a priest was “definitely there from an early age” as their mother Anne remembered him wanting to “play Mass” as a child.

He said Fr Dermott was passionate about his work with young people, “giving [them] hope, spiritual guidance and a feeling of self-worth”.

He also joked about his brother’s extensive fundraising efforts, saying: “You name it, Dermott monetised it.”

Hexham and Newcastle Bishop Robert Byrne offered his condolences to Fr Dermott’s mother and siblings, as well as extended family who had travelled from Ireland.

He said: “The huge numbers of people here this morning joining us in this cathedral and St Michael’s (church) by livestreaming is an obvious testament to the ministry of a gifted priest.”

The bishop added that the diocese would continue the youth work “which Dermott so ably initiated”.

During his homily, Rt Rev Seamus Cunningham, Bishop Emeritus of Hexham & Newcastle, described Fr Dermott as “a quiet, unassuming man with no airs and graces”.

The Donnellys – Dermott, Declan, Martin, Eamonn, Camelia, Patricia and Moira – grew up in Cruddas Park and attended St Michael’s.

It was the church where Dec married his wife Ali Astall in 2015, in a heartwarming ceremony officiated by his brother.


  • Declan Donnelly 'by his brother's bedside' as his priest sibling died aged 55
  • Declan Donnelly breaks silence as brother Dermott, 55, passes away suddenly
  • Sweet meaning behind Declan Donnelly's baby name – including adorable nod to best pal Ant McPartlin
  • Declan Donnelly welcomes baby boy with wife Ali after secret pregnancy
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