Doctor Kathleen Lynn (from a work in progress)
It was a cold, wet autumn day in 1955 when the family and friends of Kathleen Lynn gathered to pay their last respects. It is doubtful she would have wished to be buried with full military honours disillusioned as she had become with the new Ireland.
Many of her friends felt unable to enter the Church of Ireland for fear of excommunication. They stood outside the church gate, observing the funeral rites from a distance, wanting to pay their last respects to a truly great Irishwoman, a suffragette, the Chief Medical Officer of the Irish Citizen army, a revolutionary and republican who had done so much for her country.
A big black car drew up outside the church. The driver jumped out and opened the door, umbrella in hand as he ushered his distinguished visitor out of the car. President De Valera put his foot into a puddle of water but, seemingly unconcerned, straightened himself up, grabbed the umbrella and approached the church railing. The crowd standing outside the churchyard tapped their hats, aware of the significance of his presence.
How could he not be here? He and Kathleen went back to the days of the Rising. They had fought side by side for Ireland’s independence. Lately they had disagreed vehemently over De Valera’s reluctance to continue funding of the St Ultan’s children’s hospital. The former friends had become foes.
De Valera put his hand on the gate, the crowd outside looked at him in anticipation. Surely he wasn’t going to risk the ire of the Catholic church by setting foot into a Protestant churchyard? He hesitated, unsure of what to do. Kathleen had been a fellow revolutionary, she deserved his respect. He glanced at the crowd as they waited for his next move. Was it worth it? Probably not. The church was already full to capacity with Kathleen’s family he reasoned. His entering the church so late could only be disruptive. People’s focus would turn to him rather than Kathleen. It was enough that he was there, albeit at a distance. He took his hand off the gate and there was a collective sigh of relief as he moved to one side, an aged solitary figure standing in the rain.