Wednesday 18 September 2019

'A character unlike anyone else you'll ever meet' - Tributes paid to actor Jer O'Leary, who starred as 'Big Jim Larkin'

Jer O'Leary starred in over 40 films Photo: Flickr
Jer O'Leary starred in over 40 films Photo: Flickr
Conor Feehan

Conor Feehan

Actor Jer O’Leary, who starred in films including My Left Foot, Michael Collins, In The Name Of The Father and Braveheart, has died.

The Dubliner, aged in his early 70s, was found dead Christmas morning after his family could not contact him.

O’Leary was well known on stage and screen and rose to fame for his stage portrayal of trade union leader Big Jim Larkin in 1975.

He appeared in more than 40 films and one of his more recent roles was in the TV fantasy series Game Of Thrones.

He also recently appeared along with Sean Penn in the film This Must Be The Place.

His film debut was in Jim Sheridan’s My Left Foot. He also played Thomas Clarke in the Michael Collins movie.

Jer was to become the only actor to work on all of Jim Sheridan's first five films which were shot in Ireland.

He was to go on and work on three films with director Neil Jordan. He acted in three major films with the renowned Daniel Day Lewis and shared the set twice with John Hurt and once with the towering presence of Richard Harris on 'The Field' as the King of the Tinkers.

Jer lived in North Strand in the north inner city of Dublin and was also well respected as a balladeer and folklorist.

He was also a political activist, first with Sinn Fein and later for the Communist Party.

His family suffered a previous tragedy twenty years ago when his son Diarmuid (22) was killed in a fire at a guesthouse in Glasgow.

He had travelled there with friends to watch Celtic win the Scottish Premier League in a game against St Johnstone.

The Business and Computers studies student at Dundalk RTC was a keen football and hurling player.

Firefighters found his body in a second-floor bedroom early the morning after the blaze.

Jer had also attended the game and bumped into Diarmuid as the left the football grounds, but he decided to fly home and not stay the night.

He told reporters at the time: “I met him by fluke as we filed out of the ground, he hugged me and said `Pass it on to my mammy and I'll see you tomorrow'. Those were his last words to me and he went off to celebrate with his friends.''

Tributes have been paid to the actor and activist on social media.

"An unmistakable feature of my childhood and a character unlike anyone else you'll ever meet," one person wrote.

"The original banner man. One of Dublin's great talents and characters. Condolences to all his friends, family and comrades," another wrote. 

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