‘Michael the warrior’ – mourners at funeral of ‘Room To Improve’ star urged to embrace his incredible outlook

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The funeral of Michael Stokes at the Sacred Heart church in Malahide

HUNDREDS of mourners gathered in a Dublin church this morning to say farewell to Michael Stokes, the “tiny but tough” teenager who touched the heart of the nation.

Michael, who died on Saturday just weeks before his 16th birthday, came to public prominence while appearing on Dermot Bannon’s ‘Room to Improve’ show on RTÉ. And this morning the architect joined Michael’s legions of friends at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Malahide.

Parish priest Fr Martin Noone, said that while some may have thoughts the odds were stacked against Michael given his disability, the teenager was “tiny but tough”.

“What Michael has done in a few short years many of us, including myself, will not achieve in a long, long life,” he told the packed church.

Paying tribute to Michael at the end of the Mass, Eimir McGrath, who knew Michael all his life, said that when he was born “a tiny fragile baby”, he was not expected to survive. However “Michael the warrior came into being”, she said.

“Inside this little body was a giant-sized heart and an enormous capacity to love us as his life unfolded,” said Ms McGrath.

“As we all know he had a very special gift of [making]people positive by his very presence.

“His sensitivity, openness and achievement to others were reflected in the special relationship he had built with those close to him as well as radiating out to all of those he met along the way.”

She told how Michael’s life “blossomed” when he met his foster parents, Ann and Barry. Ann Higgins was his former teacher and, along with her husband Barry, they became full time foster parents of the young man in recent years.

Ms McGrath said that Michael had increasingly discovered his own identify since moving in with Ann and Barry at their home in Malahide.

It was this home that appeared on ‘Room To Improve’, and Michael’s enthusiasm on the show that resonated so strongly with hundreds of thousands of viewers.

“Michael’s life is not to be mourned today but to be embraced and followed,” Ms McGrath said.

Ms McGrath also spoke of Michael’s mischievous sense of humour and his hilarious turn of phrase, a classic being “I’m sweating like a dolphin”.

She said Michael had typical teenage concerns, adding “his cool hair was very important to him”.

“He also might have had a kiss or two in the last few months,” she revealed to laughter.

She also paid tribute to Michael’s parents, John Paul and Siobhán, for loving their son enough to share him with his foster parents, adding that he “two mammys and two daddys”.

The young man died last Saturday in Temple Street Children’s Hospital in Dublin after what was described as a “tragic accident”.

His mother Ann thanked the staff at the hospital for caring so diligently for Michael in recent weeks.

“It’s a testimony to him that so many nurses turned up yesterday and today. They could see his bravery in those few weeks,” she added.

She also thanked the children and staff of the CRC saying “they welcomed Michael into their family”.

Among the gifts brought to the altar were a microphone, a Man United jersey, a pizza box, a DVD and a bottle of coke.

After the funeral Mass Michael’s remains were brought to Dardistown Cemetery for burial.

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