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Painting of woman airbrushed from GPO Rising surrender unveiled in Seanad to mark International Women’s Day


'Her Surrender' by Leitrim artist Sinéad Guckian

'Her Surrender' by Leitrim artist Sinéad Guckian

'Her Surrender' by Leitrim artist Sinéad Guckian

A PAINTING of the woman airbrushed from Irish history has been unveiled in the Seanad to mark International Women’s Day.

Elizabeth O’Farrell was a nurse with the GPO garrison in the Easter Rising of 1916. Under a flag of truce she accompanied Pádraig Pearse to his surrender to Brigadier General William Lowe and his son John, near the lower western corner of Parnell Square.

A grainy photograph of the occasion showed O’Farrell’s feet and part of her dress, her body hidden by Pearse’s own figure as he offered surrender after a week of hostilities.

It was British newspapers of May 1916 that painted out the “distraction” of evidence that a woman was present, making it seem as if Pearse surrendered alone.

The painting entitled ‘Her Surrender’ by Leitrim artist Sinéad Guckian now shows the view imagined from the other side —- with O’Farrell fully visible and Pearse partially obscured.

The artist has generously donated the painting to the Oireachtas, with Seanad leader Regina Doherty unveiling it this morning and speaking of her pride in doing so, adding that the intent now was to find a suitable place to hang it in the halls of the Oireachtas.

Cathaoirleach Senator Mark Daly said: “By displaying this painting in the Seanad we remember someone who has come to symbolise the airbrushing of women from Irish history.

“Elizabeth O’Farrell is remembered for having been forgotten.”

International Women's Day was a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, and acted as a call for action to accelerate gender parity, he said.

“I also believe that there is room to improve the representation of women in the display of artworks in Leinster House,” he said.

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“I have therefore proposed the re-establishment of the Joint sub-Committee on Art and Portraiture so that progress can be made on this.”

Artist Sinéad Guckian said she embarked on the painting having discovered that Elizabeth O’Farrell the woman Padraig Pearse selected to carry his message seeking to open negotiations for the cessation of hostilities at the end of Easter Week, had been painted out of the photograph of Pearse delivering the surrender.

Senator Lisa Chambers of Fianna Fáil said it was a beautiful painting and served powerfully to show how women had been airbrushed from history.

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