Fr Tony Coote, south Dublin priest and social justice campaigner, has died of motor neurone disease at 55.
Fr Coote was parish priest for Mount Merrion and Kilmacud during his time serving in south Dublin. He was widely respected among his parishioners.
In a statement published on Wednesday night, Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin said that he sympathised with Fr Coote’s mother, family and “all those who supported him during his long illness, especially his ever loyal priest friends.
“Tony showed all of us how strength can be witnessed even in the face of human weakness,” he said.
“His courage and determination touched the hearts of people of all backgrounds. His courage leaves all of us more humble. May the Lord welcome and give him the deep peace to which he witnessed in his suffering.”
Fr Coote was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) in March 2018 after he fell down a set of steps at the back of a church.
He went for an MRI scan and “the young neurologist told me I had motor neurone disease”. He told The Irish Times that he “literally went into shock and fell on the floor.”
In summer 2018, Fr Coote undertook a journey from Donegal to Cork, raising €600,000 for motor neurone research and provide better services for those suffering with the disease.
It was recently announced that a portion of the funds raised allowed Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association (IMNDA) to hire a fourth outreach nurse to provide care and support to people living with the disease.
The walk was also the subject of an RTE documentary titled ‘Walking the Walk’.
The programme showed how, along the way, people and communities turned out to welcome and support him.
Earlier this year, Fr Coote published his best-selling memoir ‘Live While You Can’ detailing his life before and after the diagnosis and encouraging people to get the most out of life while you are still able.
Roisin Duffy, chief executive of IMNDA said Fr Coote was a tireless advocate for everyone living with the disease and demonstrated tremendous courage during his campaigning.
“His decision to travel 550 kilometres from Donegal to Cork last year was testament to his resilience and determination,” she said.
“We pledge to honour his memory and continue to support his vision for a world free of MND.”