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Declan Donnelly fights back tears in emotional eulogy to his brother

Declan Donnelly helped carry his brother's coffin into church before telling mourners that the priest had 'so many more lives he needed to change' in a touching tribute. Father Dermott Donnelly, who had recently celebrated 30 years of service in the Catholic church, died in hospital earlier this month after falling seriously ill.

TV star Declan said his family 'can't believe he's gone' as hundreds gathered at St Mary’s Cathedral in Newcastle for Fr Dermott’s Requiem Mass on Friday, with more than 2,000 watching the service on a livestream. Ant McPartlin arrived separately.

The long-time friends and TV partners hugged outside after the service before applause erupted as Fr Dermott's hearse pulled away. Fr Dermott, 55, was best known for his work with young people and youth ministry.

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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, Declan 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.”

Declan Donnelly (right) is embraced by his stage partner Ant McPartlin (left) outside St Mary's Cathedral, Newcastle (PA)

Declan thanked 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'. He said Fr Dermott 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.

He said: “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."

Declan praised 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'.

Declan Donnelly helps to carry the funeral of his brother, Father Dermott Donnelly (Newcastle Chronicle)

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'.

Fr Dermott Donnelly (PA)

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 Ali Astall in 2015, officiated by Fr Dermott.

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