Maureen O’Hara tributes: the ‘quintessential Irish success story’

An ‘outstanding and versatile actress whose work will endure for many years to come’

Actors John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara star in The Quiet Man, 1952. Photograph: Archive Photos/Getty Images

Actors John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara star in The Quiet Man, 1952. Photograph: Archive Photos/Getty Images


Tributes to Irish-American actor Maureen O’Hara continue to pour in following the death of the Hollywood star on Saturday.

O’Hara, most famous for her role in The Quiet Man, passed away peacefully aged 95 at her home in Boise, Idaho according to a statement from her family.

President Michael D Higgins, who is on an official visit to the US, said O’Hara would be remembered as an “outstanding and versatile actress whose work, especially in film, will endure for many years to come”.

“I especially remember with affection her recent visit to Áras an Uachtaráin, when we discussed among other things her great love of Ireland and her strong family links to Shamrock Rovers,” said Mr Higgins.

Tánaiste Joan Burton paid tribute to the actor, saying she had proudly followed O’Hara whose career spanned many decades and “who brought great talent to the world stage”.

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys offered her condolences to O’Hara’s family and described her as one of the most internationally acclaimed Irish actress’ of the 20th century.

“Maureen O’Hara left Ireland to carve a successful life in America but in the hearts and minds of every Irish person Maureen was the quintessential Irish success story,” said Ms Humphreys. “It was in her role as Mary Kate Danaher in The Quiet Man, the iconic film made over 60 years ago and still very much celebrated in Ireland and abroad, that we were first alerted to her natural beauty and talent.”

Proud of Ireland

Minister for the Diaspora Jimmy Deenihan said O’Hara always maintained a close link with her homeland and highlighted the importance of her role in The Quiet Man.

The Quiet Man is an extremely important film for Ireland; it depicted Ireland to audiences in all parts of the world and encouraged many to come to visit the country for themselves,” said Mr Deenihan.

“On top of her role as Mary Kate Danaher in The Quiet Man, Maureen O’Hara promoted Ireland at home and abroad right throughout her life. She was proud of Ireland and Ireland is proud of her.”

The Irish Film & Television Academy (IFTA) sent its condolences to the actor’s family, saying it was very proud to pay tribute to O’Hara in 2004, presenting her with the Irish Academy’s IFTA Lifetime Achievement Award.

On accepting her IFTA, O’Hara said: “All of you in the theatrical profession, television or movies, never forget you represent to the whole world this small, great, fabulous country. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this Award; it’s just a wonderful gift from Ireland to an Irish woman.”

Honorary Oscar

A decade after accepting the IFTA, O’Hara was awarded an honorary Oscar Award at the Annual Governors Ball in Hollywood on November 4th, 2014.

Born in Ranelagh, Dublin in 1920, O’Hara was the eldest of six children in the Fitzsimons family. The Abbey Theatre-trained actor became a naturalised US citizen in 1946 and held dual Irish-US citizenship.

Her early films included My Irish Molly and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but it was for director John Ford’s The Quiet Man (1952), in which she starred opposite John Wayne, that she will be best remembered.

“It is with a sad heart that we share the news that Maureen O’Hara passed away today in her sleep of natural causes,” a statement on Saturday from the FitzSimons family read.

“Maureen was our loving mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend. She passed peacefully surrounded by her loving family as they celebrated her life listening to music from her favourite movie, The Quiet Man.”

Fesity and fearless

The family said that as an actor, O’Hara brought “unyielding strength and sudden sensitivity to every role she played”.

“Her characters were feisty and fearless, just as she was in real life. She was also proudly Irish and spent her entire lifetime sharing her heritage and the wonderful culture of the Emerald Isle with the world. Later in life, she became the first woman president of a commercially scheduled airline in the United States. ”

“While we mourn the loss of a very wonderful woman, we also celebrate her remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world, especially in Ireland, to work hard to make their dreams come true and to always have the courage to stand up for themselves.

“For those who may ask what they can do to honour Maureen, we have a simple request: visit Ireland one day and think of her.”

O’Hara will not be buried in her native Ireland but at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, DC, next to her husband, the US Navy pilot General Charles Blair who died in a plane crash in 1978.