Kilmainham and Westport
The death occurred on September 5 of an tAthPiaras Ó Dúill OFMCap. Fr Piaras Ó Dúill had strong Mayo connections which started when as a teenager he attended his brother Andy’s wedding to Mary Cusack in 1950 and reception in the Bath Hotel. The large Cusack family who always welcomed Piaras to Westport since that time included Sonny, Annie, Nancy and Breda (Quay Road), Seán and Mary (High St.), Pádraic and Catherine (the Crescent), Jim and Agnes (Music House, Bridge St, now Cosy Joe’s), Joe, Teresa, Frances and Peggy. He is fondly remembered by the extended Cusack family and a wide circle of friends in Mayo.
His family home in Kilmainham, Dublin was close to the Gaol where many of the leaders of the 1916 rising were held and executed. His father Ben gathered intelligence for Michael Collins during the war of independence and his mother Caitlín was a member of Cumann na mBan.
Piaras as a young man was involved in the 1950’s IRA campaign in the north and spent time in Crumlin Road Jail. In jail he worked to promote the Irish language among his fellow prisoners. After his release from prison Piaras worked with Gael Linn in Connemara in the 1960’s.
It was at this time that he met the Chambers family from Newport and a life-long friendship followed. Piaras stayed with the Chambers family on numerous occasions and is fondly remembered for his playing of the fiddle as a ‘spot’ with the Tony Chambers band (Ballroom of Romance fame). Music and culture was a very important part of his family. His brother Breandán was well known as an actor, singer and presenter on RTÉ (Mickey Mac in the Riordan’s and presenter of Ceilí House).The tradition continues to the next generations and some family members play at Westport sessions regularly. From the 1970’s until recent years Piaras stayed annually in Cloona, Westport with his relatives, the Ó Dubhghaill family.
Piaras joined the Capuchin order in 1963 and was ordained a priest in 1971. He was appointed chaplain to St. Brendan’s Psychiatric Hospital, Grangegorman, Dublin where he worked for 42 years.
In the early 1980’s Piaras was the first chairman of the H block committee and worked tirelessly to defend prisoners’ rights during the hunger strikes. In conversation with the Irish Times after the death of the first hunger striker and MP Bobby Sands he said that he wanted those “standing behind H Block prisoners to continue their campaign in a peaceful manner. There should be no violence in the North or the South.” He was often labelled the ‘provo priest’, a characterisation he dismissed.
Fr Piaras led a full life encapsulating his dedication to Irish Culture and language, the Capuchin Order, care of the patients and staff in St Brendan’s Hospital, work supporting civil rights and the rights of republican prisoners in Ireland, chaplain to Coláiste na bhFiann for 30 years and the preservation of archival material and records of Grangegorman psychiatric hospital dating back to 1814 which are now stored in the National Archives.
His funeral mass which was full to capacity was led by his fellow friars and The Lord Mayor of Dublin. Fr Kieran Shorten OFM Cap spoke passionately about Fr Piaras’ dedication to civil rights, justice and faith. Music was provided by members of the Ó Dubhghaill family, grand nieces and nephews, Caintairí Óga Átha Cliath, Cormac Breathnach and Íde and Niamh MacMathúna.
Fr Piaras was predeceased by his siblings Andy, Brian, Breandán and Angela. He is fondly remembered and sadly missed by the Capuchin Friars, nieces, nephews, extended family and friends. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal.