Dublin-born Matt Stafford took part in both The Fenian Rising of 1867 and The Easter Rising of 1916. I have not heard of any other individual who could boast of such an achievement.
He was described by Sean O’Casey as “a fine old skin, & a brave, honest man”. (The Letters of Sean O’Casey: 1942-54, p. 995)
My knowledge of Stafford from reading Harry Colley’s Witness Statement (no. 1687) to the Bureau of Military History in which he remembered:
… one Sunday morning when the whole Battalion was on parade we were doubling around Fr. Matthew Park and after two rounds an elderly man fell out of the ranks. I discovered that this man was Matt Stafford who must have been at at that time 64 years of age, and that he had been “out” with the Fenians at Tallaght as a boy. I always think what marvellous energy and enthusiasm he must have possessed to be able to double two rounds of Fr. Matthew Park at that age. Matt Stafford was later a Senator for a number of years and died at 95 years of age.
In actual fact, Stafford lived until he was 98!
A founding member of Sinn Fein, he played a prominent part in the Rising and then went onto become a founding member of Fianna Fail. Described by The Irish Times at the time of his death as “one of the last surviving members of the Fenian Brotherhood”, Stafford outlived his son Matt Stafford Jr. (d. 1947) who had taken part in the War of Independence and was interned in the Ballykinlar Camp in 1920-21.
A senator from 1937 – 1948, Stafford was also a member of Dublin Corporation, the Central Midwives’ Board and the Grangegorman Mental Hospital Committee.
In 1945, De Valera described Stafford as the “longest link they had going back to the Fenian days”. (IT, 12/10/45)
Two years later, Stafford was formally honoured by the Fianna Fail party and was presented with his portrait in oils.
De Valera said during this presentation:
The whole history of the past one hundred years can be exemplified in his person. He bridges all that immense period of time, which probably was one of the most eventful in Irish history and, indeed, taking a broader view, of the history of the world. To be able to look back on seventy-five years of active national work is given to a very few.
A 1942 election leaflet of his can be viewed on the wonderful Irish Election Literature blog here.