Paul O’Byrne: An Appreciation

Pioneer of day-case surgery revived Barringtons Hospital

Paul O’Byrne, who died on May 22nd, 2017, was an early pioneer of day-case surgery in Ireland. Based in Limerick, he was responsible for the revival of Barringtons Hospital, which had been closed as a result of government cutbacks in 1988. He reopened Barringtons in 1991, initially as a day hospital, and from modest beginnings it flourished to become a vibrant hospital and significant employer, providing jobs to over 130 people and attracting 70 visiting consultants.

Paul had indefatigable energy, and under his guidance Barringtons was modernised and extended, with the inclusion of new operating theatres and the development of imaging services.

Paul was born in Galway on November 18th, 1953, the second child of the late Harry O’Byrne, orthopaedic surgeon, and Elizabeth (née McDonald), who had been an air hostess for Aer Lingus. He was educated by the Jesuits at Coláiste Iognáid, and at the age of 16 entered University College Galway, where he completed a BSc in microbiology before studying medicine. He retained a keen interest in immunology and cellular medicine throughout his career.

He graduated in medicine in 1979, and specialised in surgery with postgraduate training in Galway, London and Dublin.


Paul was a very talented sportsman from an early age and played rugby for University College Galway, Galwegians, Connacht and the Combined Universities, and subsequently London Irish and Clontarf. As well as being a gifted rugby player he was an excellent athlete and achieved the Olympic qualifying time at 400 metres. Upon his move to Limerick he became a proud member of Garryowen FC, and acted as team doctor. He greatly appreciated the honour of being elected president of that famous rugby club shortly before his final illness.

A locum consultant surgeon post in St John’s Hospital brought him to Limerick, where he quickly established a reputation among the city’s GPs as a highly accessible surgeon with a prodigious throughput of work. With this network established, it was an easy transition to Barringtons, where he continued to provide an excellent service. He also practised in the southeast, operating weekly at Aut Even Hospital in Kilkenny.

Paul was always a man of vision.

In this respect, he was instrumental in setting up the BSc in medical technology at the Limerick Institute of Technology.

He had the happy knack of never seeing the trees and always seeing the wood.

As a surgeon he had an excellent pair of hands, and always had a very cheerful disposition. He also had outstanding stamina, which allowed him to work long hours. To say that Paul had an excellent bedside manner would be an understatement. He had a magnetic personality and was greatly admired by his patients, colleagues and staff alike.

Paul was very proud of Barringtons contribution to the National Treatment Purchase Fund initiative. He was very happy to know that the hospital to which he had given so much of his life's work would continue to provide patient care under the ownership of the Bon Secours Health System. Although Paul did not build Barringtons Hospital, he did enhance it and more importantly, resurrect it. It is very appropriate that this hospital, therefore, should be his epitaph, just as St Paul's Cathedral was for Christopher Wren: "Si monumentum requiris, circumpice" (If you seek a monument to him, look around you).

He is enormously missed by his wife Anna, his children Lisa and Barra, Roz, Kelly and Paul, his mother Elizabeth, and his brothers and sisters.