February 1987 – September 1997
June 1981 – November 1982
1 September 1936|
25 September 1997 (aged 61)|
|Political party||Labour Party|
|Democratic Socialist Party|
James Kemmy (1 September 1936 – 25 September 1997) was an Irish socialist politician from Limerick, who started his political career in the Labour Party. He later left Labour, was elected as an independent Teachta Dála (TD), and founded the Democratic Socialist Party, which merged with the Labour Party in the 1990s.
Early and personal life
Kemmy was from the Garryowen area of the city. His father's death from tuberculosis meant that he had to leave school at 15 for a stonemason apprenticeship to support his four siblings. He worked for many years as bricklayer for Limerick City Council.
In 1963, Kemmy joined the Labour Party and worked as a trade unionist. He was a member of the party's National Administrative Council, and its Director of Elections in 1969. He resigned from the party in 1972 because of conflict with local Labour TD Stephen Coughlan. Taking advantage of a change in the law which removed the ban on council employees standing for election as councillors, he was elected to Limerick City Council in 1974. He had pledged not to wear the formal robes of a councillor, saying that "While some councillors act like clowns, there is no need to dress like them."
Kemmy stood unsuccessfully as an independent candidate for Dáil Éireann in the Limerick East constituency at the 1977 general election. His second attempt, at the 1981 general election, was successful, and he was elected to the 22nd Dáil. During this time Kemmy criticised the 1981 Irish hunger strike which earned him the animosity of many Irish republicans and socialists as well as a number of his fellow trade unionists. Despite this he was re-elected at the February 1982 general election, but his opposition to the pro-life amendment to the Constitution had led to sustained attacks from the Catholic Church. At the November 1982 general election, Kemmy lost his seat to Labour's Frank Prendergast.
He returned to Dáil Éireann at the 1987 general election and was re-elected again at the 1989 general election. In 1990, his Democratic Socialist Party merged with the Labour Party, and Kemmy was re-elected as a Labour Party TD at the 1992 general election and again at the 1997 general election. After the merger, Kemmy was elected vice-chairman of the Labour Party in 1991 and chairman in 1993. He was twice elected Mayor of Limerick, in 1991–92 and again in 1995–96.
Kemmy died on 25 September 1997, following a short illness. The by-election for his seat was held on 11 March 1998 and was won by the Labour Party candidate and former Democratic Socialist Party colleague Jan O'Sullivan.
The College of Business in the University of Limerick has been named in his memory in 2003 as the "Kemmy Business School". The University College Cork branch of the Labour Party is named after him. The city council had proposed in 1999 to name a new bridge after Kemmy, but it was renamed the Abbey Bridge. In 2000 the Limerick City Museum was renamed the Jim Kemmy Municipal Museum. Kemmy's life is profiled in a biography: Jim Kemmy - stonemason, trade unionist, politician, historian by Brian Callanan (Liffey Press, 2011). The Jim Kemmy Papers are housed at the Glucksman Library, University of Limerick.
- "Mr. Jim Kemmy". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 2 January 2009.
- Murdoch, Alan (27 September 1997). "Obituary: Jim Kemmy". UK Independent. London.
- "Jim Kemmy". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 2 January 2009.
- "University of Limerick: Kemmy Business School". Retrieved 2 January 2009.
- "Controversy over plans to name bridge after Jim Kemmy". RTÉ News. 27 February 1999.
- "City Museum, Limerick". Limerick City Council website. Archived from the original on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 16 August 2010.
- "Jim Kemmy Papers - Glucksman Library". www.UL.ie. Retrieved 30 August 2017.
| Independent Teachta Dála for Limerick East
| Democratic Socialist Party Teachta Dála for Limerick East
as Labour Party TD
as Democratic Socialist Party TD
| Labour Party Teachta Dála for Limerick East
| Mayor of Limerick
| Mayor of Limerick