Remembering Kathleen Clarke – Irish Revolutionaries
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Remembering Kathleen Clarke

Remembering Kathleen Clarke

Born Kathleen Daly on April 11th 1878 into a staunch Fenian Limerick family who were involved in the Fenian uprising of 1867.

Kathleen's uncle John Daly was imprisoned in Gaols in England for political activity, released in 1896 John Daly returned home to Limerick, when his comrade from Gaol Tom Clarke was released in 1898 he traveled to Limerick to receive the Freedom of the City and stayed with the Daly family.

Tom Clarke and Kathleen fell in love, and despite running a very successful dressmaking business Kathleen agreed to emigrate to join Tom in New York in 1901 where they married, in 1902 they had their first child John Daly Clarke, while in New York Kathleen joined the Gaelic League and Tom got involved in Clan na Gael.

They moved back to Ireland in 1907, opened a tobacconist and newsagent in Amiens Street, Dublin, later opening a second shop in Parnell Street. The shop became a hotbed for rebellion, with IRB meetings regularly being held there.

Kathleen and Tom had two more sons, Tom, born in 1908, and Emmet, born in 1909. Tom helped found the Irish volunteers in 1913 & Kathleen helped found Cumann na mBan in 1914.

Kathleen took no part in the 1916 rising as Tom was a signatory of the proclamation, so there was a big chance he would be executed if the rising was a failure, after the rising Tom was court-martialled and sentenced to death.

On May 2nd 1916, Kathleen was allowed a two-hour visit before Tom was executed in the early hours of May 3rd. Later that night herself and her sisters had to visit their brother Ned Daly before he was executed on May 4th.

In the space of two days, Kathleen had lost a husband and a brother, to make matters worse Kathleen was expecting another baby but did not tell Tom in her last visit with him, but she fell ill and tragically lost the baby.

Kathleen helped up the Irish National Aid Fund to aid those who had family members killed or imprisoned as a result of the Easter Rising, she remained active in Cumann na mBan and joined Sinn Fein in 1917 and was elected to the party's executive.

In May 1918, Kathleen and other leading people in Sinn Fein were arrested and interned as part of the alleged German plot and spent nine months in Holloway Jail in London along with Constance Markievicz and Maud Gonne.

In 1919 she was elected as an Alderman for the Wood Quay and Mountjoy Wards of Dublin Corporation, during the Tan war Kathleen served as a judge in the Republican Courts and was active as a courier, smuggling money and weapons to the IRA.

Kathleen was elected unopposed as a Sinn Féin TD to the Second Dáil at the 1921 elections for the Dublin Mid constituency, in the civil war Kathleen took the Republican side and her shop was regularly raided
by Free state troops.

In 1924 she made a lecture tour of the USA, fundraising for the dependants’ fund. Kathleen became a founding member of Fianna Fail in 1926 which meant she had to resign from Cumann na mBan.

Kathleen was re-elected to the short-lived 5th Dáil at the June 1927 election as a Fianna Fáil member for the Dublin Mid constituency but lost her seat at the September 1927 election, but that was not the of elections for Kathleen.

In 1928 she was elected to the Seanad, in 1930 she was elected to the re-constituted Dublin Corporation becoming Dublin's first Fianna Fail mayor 1939 - 1941, the first woman to hold the office, while Mayor she helped found the Irish red cross.

Despite being a founding member of Fianna Fail Kathleen was very outspoken, she opposed de Valera’s Consitution because of its anti-woman overtones and disagreed with his anti-Republican agenda in the late 30s and early 40s.

Kathleen resigned from Fianna Fail in 1943 and joined Clann na Poblachta a new Republican party formed in 1946 and led by former IRA Chief Of Staff Sean McBride, Kathleen stood in 1948 election for the new party but was unsuccessful, no longer in Dublin corporation since 1945, the general election of 1948 signaled the end of political life for Kathleen.

Kathleen stayed on the boards of many organisations including the National Graves Association, she moved to Liverpool with her son Emmet and his two sons, her only Grandchildren.

In 1966, as part of the celebrations of the Easter Rising, Kathleen and other surviving relatives were awarded honorary doctorates of law by the National University of Ireland,

In the run-up to the commemorations, she wrote to the Taoiseach Sean Lemass requesting a central role in the celebrations claiming that Tom Clarke was the first President of the Republic and not Pearse and that she was the only surviving widow of the 1916 leaders.

Kathleen Clarke died in a nursing home in Liverpool on Septemeber 29th 1972 aged 94, she received the rare honour of a state funeral and was buried in Deansgrange cemetery.


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