The President has unveiled a plaque to mark the birthplace of a Cork man who is revered in Venezuela as a liberator, but who remains largely anonymous here.
Michael D Higgins said he was delighted to attend the unveiling ceremony on Barrack St to commemorate General Daniel Florence O’Leary, who was born on the street in 1801.
O’Leary, the son of Cork butter merchant Jeremiah O’Leary, emigrated to South America in 1817 to join the fight for Venezuelan independence from the Spanish.
He rose through the ranks of the army to become aide de camp to Simón Bolívar during the South American Wars of Independence.
He is regarded as a great military leader, diplomat, and hero in northern South America, and in Venezuela in particular.
His tomb in the National Pantheon of Venezuela in Caracas and is protected by 24-hour guard.
A bust and plaque honouring O’Leary were presented by the Venezuelan government to the people of Cork and unveiled in Fitzgerald’s Park in 2010 by the Venezuelan Ambassador to Ireland, Dr Samuel Moncada.
During his 2017 visit to Colombia, President Higgins referenced to O’Leary and other Irish people who made an impact in Latin America.
However, O’Leary’s legacy is largely uncelebrated in his native city.
On Saturday, President Higgins applauded those who had organised the plaque unveiling on the wall of Broderick’s Chemist, close to O’Leary’s birthplace, “in memory of a great Corkman who had such a huge impact on Latin America”.
“It was a special moment for the street and indeed for all those who have been keeping the flame of Daniel Florence O’Leary alive for many years,” said Lord Mayor Mick Finn.
“Finally, we have a suitable memorial near his birthplace as well as the bust in Fitzgerald’s Park.”
He praised the residents of O’Leary Place, Barry Broderick, and the officials of Cork City Council, including heritage officer Niamh Twomey , for organising the installation of the plaque.
He also paid tribute to Richard Lynch and the DF Commemoration Committee for their work highlighting O’Leary’s legacy.
“We remember, too, the late historian Michael O’Leary, who was a relative of the general and who worked so hard to ensure he would be remembered in his native city,” he said.
A large crowd gathered for the event including TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, councillors Fiona Kerins, Mick Nugent, Henry Cremin, and Tony Fitzgerald, and former lord mayor Catherine Clancy.