One of Limerick’s first ban gardai, who were treated like celebrities, passes away

Donal O'Regan

Reporter:

Donal O'Regan

Always smiling: The late Kathleen O’Sullivan and left, in uniform

Always smiling: The late Kathleen O’Sullivan and left, in uniform

FIFTY six years ago this month five young ladies arrived in Colbert Station and made history - they were Limerick’s first ban gardai.

Peig Tierney, Mary Garvey, Teresa Mitchell, Dympna Moore and Kathleen Dixon were treated like film stars and made the front page of the Limerick Leader.

Assistant Commissioner David Sheahan said they paved the way for countless women to proudly wear the uniform in the years to come.

Asst Comm Sheahan described it as a “great honour” when he, then chief superintendent in Limerick, welcomed the five ladies to a special reception in Henry Street in 2012 to mark their 50th anniversary. Sadly Peig, Teresa and most recently Kathleen, who married Garda Tim O’Sullivan and settled in Corbally, have gone to their God.

“It was a pleasure to give them a tour of Henry Street and speak to them about days gone by. On behalf of myself and my garda colleagues I would like to express my deepest sympathies to Kathleen's family and friends,” said Asst Comm Sheahan. 

He stressed the significant contribution gardai, who come to and live in a new area, make.

“That’s the strength of An Garda Siochana - we are from the community. They add an awful lot of value to a community and they build up a reputation in a community that breaks down barriers between gardai and communities. The community sees them for what they deliver in the community - that to me is invaluable,” said Asst Comm Sheahan.

And what a contribution Kathleen and Tim made to life and to their neighbours and friends in College Park, Corbally. Ironically, Kathleen was born in Garda Terrace in the Phoenix Park.

In a moving eulogy at her funeral Mass, Maura one of three children with Bríd and Jim, said her mum loved telling everyone she shared a back garden with the President. 

“But mam certainly had no airs and graces. She was one of the most unassuming people you would ever meet. She made everyone she met feel like they were the only person in the world with her huge hugs and smile – you couldn’t say hello or goodbye to mam without getting a hug,” said Maura, who along with Jim, followed their parents into the gardai. Bríd is a teacher in St Munchin’s College.

Maura said one of the many things Kathleen was well known for in her life, was the fact that she was one of the first ban gardaí in Limerick. 

“She joined the guards in 1962 following in the footsteps of her father Peter, her brother Paddy and her sister Betty. Although she, and the four other women who came to Limerick with her didn’t know it at the time, they were such strong role models for many other women, including myself, and my sister Bríd and my niece Shanann,” said Maura. 

Kathleen was always a strong independent woman, which showed so clearly in the career she chose and the decision to come to Limerick. And no one knew better how strong and independent she was than the young garda from Glengarriff she met and married in Limerick. 

“They fell in love, a love which only grew stronger and stronger over the years. They married 53 years ago and built their home in the wonderful community in College Park, where strangers became neighbours and then friends. Mam knew everyone and everyone knew mam.

“She was very involved in the community, giving her time to support the schools, senior citizens groups, women’s club and many, many other causes. And although she was such a presence, she did all this quietly never looking for any thanks. She had a great sense of justice and was always the one to stand up for people,” said Maura. Her beautiful voice turned many an occasion into a sing-song.

Kathleen had a great faith and great pride in her family in Dublin and Limerick, and the family she married into from Cork.

“We knew without doubt how much we were loved and how proud they were and are of us. But as much as mam loved us, she adored her grandchildren, David, Timothy, Evan, Shanann, and Ryan, and they adored her. She talked about them all the time, and was so proud of all their achievements and the amazing people they are,” said Maura.

Kathleen passed away peacefully, with her family, at home. On behalf of the O’Sullivan family, Maura thanked doctors, nurses, care workers, priests and friends, who gave Kathleen and the family such comfort in her last months.

May she rest in peace.