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Searc's Web Guide to Nora Connolly O'Brien (1893-1981)



Nora Connolly O'Brien
Nora Connolly O'Brien (1893-1981)

Nora Connolly O'Brien, daughter of James Connolly, was born in Scotland. In 1903 her family emigrated to the United States where she worked as a milliner. They moved to Belfast in 1907 where she worked in the mills, founded the Young Republicans Party and the Belfast Branch of Cumann na mBan.
In 1914, while working for the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union in Dublin, she partook in the Howth gun-running operation. In early 1916 she accompanied Liam Mellows from England after he had escaped from Reading Gaol.
During the 1916 Rising she she smuggled dispatches from Padraig Pearse to the Belfast Volunteers. After the Rising Connolly O'Brien travelled to America, disguised as a priest, to inform Clann na Geal of the situation in Ireland. In late 1917 she returned to Ireland via England after an order barring her from Ireland had been issued.
Connolly O'Brien worked for the ITGWU while campaigning for Sinn Féin in the 1918 general election. She married Seamus O'Brien in 1922 and, in 1923, when Margaret Skinnider was arrested, Connolly O'Brien became Paymaster-General of the IRA. She was imprisoned by the Free State in Mountjoy Gaol, the North Dublin Union and later in Kilmainham Gaol.
In 1926 Connolly O'Brien became a member of the Irish Senate and sat for three terms. In 1934 she joined Republican Congress but resigned when that organisation didn't establish itself as a political party. Nora Connolly O'Brien was a lifelong republican and partook in political debates and H-Block support rallies until shortly before her death in 1981. This extract is from Connolly O'Brien's We Shall Rise Again © (1981).

My father was once asked how he would describe a free Ireland, and he replied, 'All Ireland free and independent from the centre to the sea, and flying its own flag out over all the oceans.' It is this vision which has inspired fighters for Irish freedom for centuries. The Easter rising was just one link in the unbroken tradition of struggle for this goal. But in the North we have another enemy besides the British - the renegade Irishmen, I call them. They want to be part of Britain and not part of the nation where God placed them.
Ireland was partitioned after we had beaten the Black and Tans in 1921. It was the first time in our history that Britain had to come to us and asked for a truce. But the people we sent over to London to negotiate knew nothing about diplomacy. They just wanted freedom from Britain and that is all they knew about. They had not the wisdom or training of the British Foreign Office and Llyod George. Now that the Truce had brought an end to the fighting in Ireland, our negotiators were not prepared to continue the struggle. So they agreed to sign the Treaty which partitioned Ireland. The British had won out. Ireland was divided and the struggle was on again.
One thing that you will not hear the renegade Irishmen mention is that when King George V made his one and only visit to Ireland, which was to open Stormont, he made a fine speech for the unionists, but he nevertheless made it clear that this was to be regarded as only a temporary measure, and that the future lay in the hands of the Irish people themselves. He told Stormont: 'May this historic gathering be the prelude of the day in which the Irish people, north and south, under one parliament or two, as those parliaments themselves may decide, shall work together in common love of Ireland upon the sure foundation of mutual justice and respect.'
The renegade Irishmen ignore even these last words given them by George V. The renegade Irishmen preach to the Protestants that if they join with the rest of Ireland they will be banged on the head just because they are Protestants. I am talking about people like Paisley, who preaches hatred towards Catholics, while calling himself a minister. Doesn't he know that Christ preached love, not hate?
Besides the renegade Irishmen, the people of the North have to face the British Army, and the RUC. The RUC are called police, but they are fully armed with rifles and machine-guns, and go around the streets, threatening this one and threatening that one. The real terrorists up there are the RUC. And yet the attitude of the nationalist people in the North is tremendous. If they feel fear they do not show it.
Republicanism was first started by the Protestants of the United Irishmen, and many of the Irish leaders who are still held in greatest respect today by Republicans were Protestant - Tone, Emmet and Davis to name but three. There has never been a time when there has been no republicanism at all among the Protestants of the North. There would be much more if it was not for the renegade Irishmen who put about stories to frighten them with the idea that they would loose their freedom if they joined up with us. Yet the truth is that the Protestants who now live in the twenty-six counties are an even smaller minority than the Protestants would be in a united Ireland, and the facts show that there is no discrimination against them. The Protestants living in the twenty-six counties have religious freedom. Most of them are as opposed to Partition as the Catholics are, and many of them have taken part in Ireland's fight for freedom from Britain. They are among our best citizens, and many have held important posts. Two of our Presidents have been Protestants - our first President, Douglas Hyde, and, later, Erskine Childers Junior. For that matter we have had a Jewish Lord Mayor of Dublin. We do not have racism in the twenty-six counties, and we are not prejudiced against the Protestants. The Orangemen know this perfectly well, because they come down here on their holidays...
In the Proclamation of the Republic that Pearse read from the steps of the GPO in 1916, there is one bit that I always particularly like, and that is the part about religious liberty. It says, 'The republic guarantees religious ad civil liberty,... cherishing all the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.'
I like this part because it makes Britain responsible for the way many six-county Protestants have been led astray about the question of Irish unity.
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