Monday 20 February 2017

Donal Lynch: The twist of fate that links Richard Boyd Barrett and Fr Michael Cleary

Priest's elder son was adopted by the same couple who adopted the son of Sinead Cusack and Vincent Dowling

Donal Lynch

Published 19/05/2013 | 17:00

In The Importance Of Being Earnest Jack Worthing, abandoned at a railway station as a baby, belatedly 'acquires' the requisite pedigree when Lady Bracknell discovers his true origins. Richard Boyd Barrett already came from a respectable family, but with the revelation last weekend that he is the biological child of theatre legend Vincent Dowling and Sinead Cusack, of the famous Irish acting dynasty, the outspoken People Before Profit TD received an impeccable artistic pedigree to go with his political power.

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Add in the curious serendipity of his adoptive brother being the child of the country's one-time moral arbiter, Father Michael Cleary, and you have a family drama which, had it been written for the stage, might have been dismissed as too far-fetched.

If the story strains credibility in 2013, it must have made some sense in 1967, which is the year it all began. We will perhaps never know the terible pressures that brought Sinead Cusack to the difficult decision to give up her child – she refuses to discuss it. She was just starting out at the Abbey Theatre and her father, Cyril, was already considered a legend of the stage – she had a lot to live up to. When she met Vincent Dowling he was also a well-established figure in the theatre, 19 years her senior and was later described as "a master of seduction", in the words of one of his interviewers.

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