It was not as if I was unaware that Marion Stokes had been a member of Cumann na mBan, the women's militant nationalist organisation that took part in Ireland's Easter Rising in 1916. But along with that information came an unspoken sense that questions about it would not be welcomed. Marion, my grandmother’s cousin, lived to be 87 and died in 1983, so I could have had an adult relationship with her. But, as it happened, I didn’t. I left Ireland for London in the late 1970s. My mother often came to visit me and once, on a walk by the River Thames, she mentioned that though Marion had grown up in Enniscorthy and died there, she had spent time nursing in England. I remember asking why she left Ireland and my mother shaking her head and saying that she didn’t know. Marion, she said, “didn’t like to talk about the past”. I could well believe it. The Marion I knew in my childhood was not someone who would let her hair down, put her feet up and engage in girly chats.