The man who raised the Tricolour over the General Post Office in Dublin on Easter Monday in 1916 was a teacher from a west Cork farm.
Gearóid O’Sullivan, from Coolnagurrane, Skibbereen, a second cousin of Michael Collins, was a member of the Irish Volunteers, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and the Gaelic League.
That Easter Monday, the future President of Ireland, Sean T O’Kelly, was instructed by James Connolly to go to Liberty Hall, where he said he would find a large, brown paper bag that contained two flags.
One was a tricolour of green, white and orange, and the other was a green flag with a gold harp in the middle, with the words ‘Irish Republic’ emblazoned on it.
He later recalled bringing the flags to Connolly, who ordered that they be hoisted onto the roof flagpoles of the GPO, towards the front of the building.
Argentine-born Eamon Bulfin, whose father was from Birr, Co Offaly, raised the flag of the Republic, and the Tricolour was hoisted by Gearóid O’Sullivan, who had been chosen by Seán MacDiarmada to be his aide de camp.
O’Sullivan fought beside Michael Collins during Easter week, was interned in Frongoch, and played a leading role in the War of Independence. He had a £3,500 bounty on his head.
A graduate of University College Dublin, he once taught in Kildorrery National School, in Co Cork, and in Phibsboro, Dublin. He was also a professor of languages in Knockbeg College, Carlow, and was the first adjutant-general of the Irish Army.
His wife, Maud, whom he married in October 1922, was a sister of Kitty Kiernan, the fiancée of Michael Collins. The sisters, from Granard, Co Longford, had planned a double wedding, but Collins was killed that August in Béal na Bláth, Co Cork.
Kitty attended Gearóid and Maud’s wedding, dressed in black, as she continued to mourn the loss of the ‘Big Fellow’ just two months earlier.
Thirteen years after he had hoisted the Tricolour over the GPO, Gearóid O’Sullivan returned to the historic building, for the ceremonial reopening of the post office after it had been destroyed during the Rising.
It was also the anniversary of the 1921 Anglo-Irish Truce. O’Sullivan again hoisted the flag, but this time it was to a bugle sound and salute from the Irish Army.
Executive Council president William T Cosgrave, who formally reopened the building by purchasing a postage stamp, was clearly sensitive to the symbolic significance of the event.
He said the flag was the same as the one that was hoisted on Easter Monday, 1916, in the presence of Clarke, Pearse, Connolly, MacDiarmada, O’Rahilly, Ceannt, and MacDonagh.
“The hand that hoists it is the hand of one of their comrades who was then present,” he said.
General Gearóid O’Sullivan, who had qualified as a barrister and had been elected to the Dáil on five occasions, died on Good Friday, March 25, 1948.
He was given a State funeral with full military honours on the following Easter Monday — exactly 32 years after he had first hoisted the Tricolour on the GPO.
General O’Sullivan’s coffin was draped in a Tricolour, as it was carried on a gun carriage to his final resting place in Glasnevin Cemetery. That same flag had wrapped the coffin of Michael Collins in 1922.
Cork and 1916
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