Thekla Beere well-deserving of biography, says President


PIONEERING CIVIL servant Thekla Beere was “well-deserving” of a biography which was waiting “a long time” to be written, President Mary McAleese said as she was presented with a copy of the book yesterday.

Author Dr Anna Bryson gave the President a copy of her biography of Thekla Beere, No Coward Soul, A Biography of Thekla Beere, at Áras an Uachtaráin yesterday.

Mrs McAleese said Ms Beere was one of her big role models as a young woman and recalled the barriers she had broken.

The President first heard of her in primary school but did not get to know her until the 1970s. Ms Beere was the first woman to head up an Irish government department.

She became secretary of the department of transport and power in 1959.

Ms Beere chaired the first commission on the status of women. This provided a model for change in equal pay, the Civil Service marriage bar and the widow’s pension.

Over half of the commission’s recommendations were introduced within a few years.

She was the “ultimate civil servant” and who sacrificed a lot to get where she was, Mrs McAleese said.

Mrs McAleese said many women who attended or taught in university or during that era did not get married.

Ms Beere never married, but had a 40-year long companionship with businessman JJ O’Leary. She was also a member of The Irish Times Trust.

Ms Beere was “so understated” and “loved life”, Mrs McAleese added.

Author Dr Anna Bryson said the story had been left untold for a long time.

She said that Ms Beere had been years before her time.

Young women today would be shocked by the obstacles the civil servant had confronted in her time, she said.