Nora Connolly – a brief note on her life
The following piece appeared on éirígí’s facebook page. Now being unemployed, and living a quiet life in a place near the end of the world, I hope to have more time to write, especially as I only want to work part-time for the rest of my life. Near the top of what I want to write is an appreciation of Nora Connolly. As I’ve indicated before, too often in discussions re Republican Congress it is Peadar O’Donnell who is primarily remembered. In my view, in the political fight that led to the effective break-up of Republican Congress, Nora Connolly was right in arguing for the transformation of the Congress into a revolutionary (socialist-republican) party and O’Donnell and his supporters (who wanted it to be a coalition of republicans, including attempts to involve elements of Fianna Fail) were wrong. The pressing need at the time was for a revolutionary party; such a party might then help coalesce and lead a wider alliance, but the party was key.
Nora, in my opinion, has never been given her full due, probably because she made the subsequent mistake of going off into the Labour Party and, later, serving as a De Valera-appointed member of the Seanad. Those mistakes, however, don’t wipe out her impressive credentials from before the Easter Rising, through the Rising and war for independence, through the civil war (at one point in time she was acting paymaster-general for the IRA), the 1920s and the organising of Republican Congress. It was only after the defeat of her arguments there that she ended up feeling she had nowhere to go and the fact that Labour had begun talking again about the ‘workers republic’ idea that led her into Labour. To her credit, she didn’t stay and become an apologist for Labour, the way her brother Roddy did. The formation of the IRSP and the apparent leftward development of the Provisionals brought her back into activity in her late 70s and early 80s, especially around the hunger strikes of 1980-81.
From éirígí on facebook, June 17:
The veteran Irish socialist republican, and daughter of the great James Connolly, Nora Connolly O’Brien passed away on June 17, 1981.
Nora lived her life in absolute dedication to the cause of Irish National Liberation and Socialism.
Nora was a veteran of the 1916 Rising, the Tan War and the war in defence of the Republic which followed. Like her father, Nora believed that the class struggle and the national struggle in Ireland were the same fight, and during the 1930s Nora was a key organiser in the left wing Republican Congress.
In the 1970s Nora described Seamus Costello as “the leader who would bring about an organisation such as my father wished to bring about. Of all the politicians and political people with whom I have had conversations, and who called themselves followers of Connolly, he was the only one who truly understood what James Connolly meant when he spoke of his vision of the freedom of the Irish people. In him, I had hoped at last after all these years, a true leader had come, who could and would build an organisation such as James Connolly tried to do.”
Nora continued her republican activism right into the 1980s, when she was a staunch supporter of the protesting prisoners held in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh.
Nora Connolly O Brien died as she lived, deeply committed to the establishment of an Irish socialist republic. Speaking about the resurgent republican movement towards the end of her life-long republican activism Nora said, “For many centuries, we in Ireland have had an unbroken tradition of each generation having an armed uprising against Britain. In my generation we had an armed uprising in 1916 with the proclamation of freedom of the Republic of Ireland… Here we are rising again, and if we go down, we’ll rise again!”
Posted on July 11, 2014, in 1981 hunger strike, éirígí, General revolutionary history, Irish Citizen Army, IRSP, James Connolly, Nora Connolly, Political education and theory, Prisoners - past, Repression and resistance in 1970s and 1980s, Republicanism 1960s, Republicanism post-1900, Seamus Costello, The road to the Easter Rising, War for Independence period. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.