James Joseph O'Kelly
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James Joseph O'Kelly (1845 – 22 December 1916) was an Irish nationalist journalist, politician and member of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and as member of the Irish Parliamentary Party represented the Roscommon constituency between 1880 and 1916.
His grandparents on his father's side came from County Roscommon. His father, John O'Kelly, ran a blacksmith's shop and dray making business in Dublin's Peterson's Lane, which connects Townsend Street with City Quay. He also owned the Cumberland cottages off Westland Row. He was educated in Dublin. He was sent to London at a very early age to learn the craft of sculpting from his maternal uncle John Lawlor, however, on his father's insistence, he returned from London to take up an apprenticeship in the family business.
After his father's death in 1861, the Dublin properties were sold and the family moved to London. James returned to John Lawlor's studio where he worked for two years before departing to join the French Foreign Legion.
Kelly went with the French Foreign Legion to Mexico. Around 1865, O'Kelly deserted from the French Foreign Legion and escaped to Baltimore. Although he returned immediately to London, it was his first contact with America. Having establishing himself as a journalist in London, he made a return visit to America to see John Devoy in 1871. He secured a position with the New York Herald as a journalist. He was very successful with this paper and became Drama Critic and Art Editor. Aside from this occupation he dealt in paintings through the Goupil Gallery on Fifth Avenue. This episode of his career may have spanned the best part of twenty years. It is probable that the connections established there were instrumental in Aloysius O'Kelly's later move to America.
He was a close associate of John O'Connor Power and, in 1877, he persuaded John Devoy to take a positive approach to the Irish party's policy at Westminster. The following year O'Kelly arranged a meeting between Clan na Gael's William Carroll and Irish parliamentarians. This was flagged as a New Departure.
Back in Ireland
In the 1880s he returned to Ireland, where he pursued an active political career. In the UK general election of 1880 he was elected Home Rule League MP for Roscommon. In 1880, despite Parnell's opposition, he gave his support to the Compensation for Disturbance Bill.
In October 1881, Charles Stewart Parnell, Member of Parliament and leader of the Irish Party, then at the height of his powers, was arrested and imprisoned in Kilmainham Gaol. Two days after his arrest, O'Kelly, along with some other Party members, including John Dillon and William O'Brien, were also imprisoned under the Coercion Act in Kilmainham where they remained until May 1882.
O'Kelly won election to the new Roscommon North seat in the 1885 general election and was returned unopposed in the same seat in 1886. When the Irish Parliamentary Party split in 1890 over Parnell's leadership, O'Kelly supported Parnell. On hearing of the death of Parnell, he called at Walsingham Terrace, Brighton, where the Parnell family was staying, and offered his assistance. As a Pro-Parnellite he subsequently lost his seat to an Anti-Parnellite in the 1892 general election, but won re-election in Roscommon North in the 1895 election. He was then returned unopposed to the same seat in successive elections (1900, 1906, 1910) until his death in 1916.
His brother was the painter Aloysius O'Kelly.
- Comerford, R.V, The Fenians in Context, 225. J.J. O'Kelly to John Devoy, 5 and 21 Aug 1877, Devoy's Post Bag, i, 266–70
- Ceallaigh Scéal ón mBlárcatha by Tomás Mac Síomóin (Coiscéim 2009)
- Daily Chronicle, 9 October 1891, 5
- Paul Townend, 'A Cosmopolitan Nationalist: James Joseph O'Kelly in America,' Ireland in an Imperial World: Citizenship, Opportunism and Subversion, Edited by Timothy McMahon, Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.
- Brian M. Walker (ed.), Parliamentary Election Results in Ireland, 1801–1922, Dublin, Royal Irish Academy, 1978
- Who Was Who, 1916–1928
- "An Irishman's Diary", Irish Times, 24 August 2009.
- Owen McGee, From the files of the DIB...Originator of the ‘New Departure’, History Ireland 16 (2009) 6.
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
Charles Owen O'Conor
|Member of Parliament for County Roscommon
1880 – 1885
With: Andrew Commins
|New constituency||Member of Parliament for North Roscommon
1885 – 1892
Matthias McDonnell Bodkin
Matthias McDonnell Bodkin
|Member of Parliament for North Roscommon
George Noble Plunkett