Daughter of GPO pair ‘lost for words’ at 1916 centenary event

‘I feel very emotional when I think of the values of every one of those Volunteers’

Shelia O’Leary (94) at the 1916  commemoration parade  outside the GPO in  Dublin. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Shelia O’Leary (94) at the 1916 commemoration parade outside the GPO in Dublin. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

 

Among the thousands of relatives who attended yesterday’s Easter Sunday parade, none were positioned closer to the GPO than 94-year-old Sheila O’Leary.

Mrs O’Leary is one of the last surviving people whose parents were both in the GPO during Easter Week.

Her father, Thomas Francis Byrne, known as Byrne the Boer, and her mother, Lucy Agnes Smyth, who was with Cumann na mBan, were both in the building in 1916.

It is a parental distinction she shares with the late former taoiseach Garret FitzGerald.

Mrs O’Leary came with her family medals in a wooden box and confessed to have been overcome with emotion on several occasions.

“It was absolutely amazing. I’m lost for words,” she said.

“I feel very emotional when I think of the values of every one of those Volunteers. They all deserve to be honoured.”

Her daughter, Maeve, travelled from Australia to be with her outside the GPO. “Mum is delighted to be there. She has been staying alive for this day,” she said.

“There are three generations of Byrnes here and we are representing our family scattered around the world. We’re proud of our mum to be so well to remember her own parents.”

Mr Byrne and Miss Smyth were not a couple when they were together in the GPO. They married in 1919.