Lives Remembered

Fr Piaras Ó Dúill: Chairman of National H-Block/Armagh Committee during prison protests

Fr Piaras Ó Dúill was chaplain at St Brendan's psychiatric hospital in Dublin for more than 40 years. Picture from Dublin Institute of Technology

FATHER Piaras Ó Dúill was a key figure in efforts to mobilise support across Ireland for republican prisoners seeking political status.

The Dubliner was the first chairman of the National H-Block/Armagh Committee set up in 1979 during protests which culminated in the hunger strikes.

He had experienced life as a republican prisoner himself - born overlooking Kilmainham gaol in 1931, he was jailed in 1957 during the IRA's border campaign and spent four years in Belfast’s Crumlin Road gaol.

He entered the priesthood two years later and trained with the Capuchin Order in Ards Friary in north Donegal.

Fr Piaras then began a 40-year ministry as chaplain at St Brendan's psychiatric hospital in Grangegorman in north Dublin, now the site of Dublin Institute of Technology.

"Over the years, he provided comfort and support to the many patients and staff in St Brendan’s hospital and in that time saw major changes take place in psychiatric care," the institute said.

"During his time working in St Brendan’s he worked tirelessly to protect and maintain the hospitals records and archives which are now in the hands of the National Archives."

Fr Ó Dúill was also active in Irish language circles, including drama, and was a talented fiddler.

His brother Breandán Ó Dúill was an actor, singer and broadcaster known for a role in The Riordans and as presenter of RTÉ's Céilí House.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said he knew Fr Piaras for more than 40 years.

“He was always keenly interested in and concerned about the treatment of prisoners," he said.

Jim Gibney, who worked with him on the H-Block committee, said he became the public face of the prisoner issue in the south.

"He was a very special person. He was a gentle soul but was deeply concerned about the circumstances in the H-Blocks and in Armagh women's prison," he said.

"Having been imprisoned, he had a sense of what they were experiencing."

An t-Athair Piaras Ó Dúill OFM Cap died on September 5 in Dublin's Mater Hospital.

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Lives Remembered