Mary Kenny


Life

1944- ; b. Dublin; youngest of four; ed. Loreto Convent, Dublin, and left the school - or was expelled - at 16; au-paired for a year in France; settled in London and worked as journalist on Evening Standard; appt. Women’s Editor of the Irish Press 1969, was active in the early phase of the women’s movement in Ireland and organised the “Pill Train”, bring contraceptives to the Republic from Belfast in defiance of Irish law;

 
returned to London as journalist and returned to her early Catholic convictions; contrib. at various times to 25 newspapers and to Irish Literary Supplement (Boston); issued Why Christianity Works (1981), and Abortion: The Whole Story (1986), an essentially conservative essay setting out the pros and cons on the basis of medical evidence, interviews and statistics and placing the question in the context of different times and cultures;
 
published stories as A Mood For Love (1989), short stories; contrib. columns to Sunday Telegraph, Daily Telegraph, Irish Independent, and Daily Mail; embarked on mature studies at Birkbeck College, London University (grad. French); joined staff of Daily Express, 1996; wrote journalism for television and radio; issued There’s Something About a Convent Girl (1991), edited by Jackie Bennett and Rosemary Forgan;
 
also Goodbye to Catholic Ireland (1997), based chiefly on an enthusiastic examination of Irish periodicals incl. The Catholic Standard, Irish Messenger of the Sacred Heart, as well as Irish Ecclesiastical Record and The Furrow; her life of William Joyce (2004) was made into a film by Haas-Silver-Levene Productions with Giovanni Ribosi as “Lord Haw-Haw”;
 
issued Allegiance (2005), play about Michael Collins and Winston Churchill, drawn together in a night of carousal; issued Crown and Shamrock (2009), on the Irish love-hate relationship with the British monarchy, and incorporating documents from the Windsor royal archives at Windsor; writes now for the Guardian and Telegraph; m. with 2 sons; guest speaker at 16th Irish Writers in London Summer School, June 2011; suffered the death of her partner Richard (“Dick”) West, My 2015.

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Works
Commentary
  • Woman x Two: How to Cope with a Double Life (London: Sidgwick & Jackson 1978), 179pp.;
  • Why Christianity Works (London: Joseph 1981), 220pp.;
  • ed., The Long Road Back: The Story of a Triumph Over Sudden and Total Disablement, by Bill Ellis (Great Wakering: Mayhew-McCrimmon 1981), 184pp., ill. [photo-ports. by Jane Hill];
  • Abortion: The Whole Story (London: Quartet 1986), 315pp.;
  • Goodbye to Catholic Ireland: A Social, Personal and Cultural History from the Fall of Parnell to the Realm of Mary Robinson (London: Sinclair-Stevenson 1997, 2000), xxxiii, 446pp, ill. [1 map];
  • Death by Heroin: Recovery by Hope (Dublin: New Island Press 1999), 221pp.;
  • ed. & intro., 3 Days in September: When the Pope came to Ireland, compiled by Peter O’Connell & Seán O’Keeffe (Dublin: Liberties Press, 2004), 239pp., ill. (ports; some col.) [25cm.];
  • Germany Calling: A Biography of William Joyce, Lord Haw-Haw (Dublin: New Island Press 2004), xxiii, 380pp., ill. [maps];
  • Allegiance: Michael Collins and Winston Churchill: 1921-22 - A Dramatised Account (Dublin: Kildare Street Books 2005), 95pp., ill.;
  • Crown and Shamrock: Love and Hate between Ireland and the British Monarchy (Dublin: New Island Press 2009), 350pp.
 
Fiction
  • A Mood for Love and Other Stories (London: Quartet 1989), 185pp.;

Journalism incls. ‘What is done easily is done frequently’, in Telegraph (16 Feb. 2007), writing in response to the decision of Baroness Howard de Walden to forbid abortion on Harley St. - being part of her family’s London freehold property - and reflecting on the paradoxical nature of pro-abortion law, the rising figures for both abortion and children in care and the cost of cheap availability.

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Commentary
David Quinn, review of Goodbye to Catholic Ireland (Sinclair-Stevenson 1997), 446pp., cites chaps., ‘Catholic Ireland in the Celtic Dawn’; ‘Power and Faith’; reviewer regards it as a rebuttal of T. P. Coogan’s charge that the Catholic Church is Ireland’s second colonial power, and notes also the rebuttal of the idea that the religious impulse and art are incompatible.

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Quotations
Goodbye to Catholic Ireland (1997): ‘I wanted to show the depth and richness of the Catholic heritage [...] and I think this is best revealed through the newspapers and journals of the period. The Irish press in the early part of this century was particularly good at recording the details that are subsequently so valuable to social historians. Once I began to get this picture of Irish society as it had been I just wanted to find out more and more, to unearth that heritage of which the media seemed to be so dismissive in the aftermath of the Bishop Casey affair.’ Further, ‘I wanted to pass on the fantastic pageantry of the Catholic religion, which was something I’ve come to appreciate more and more.’ Kenny quotes John McGahern as saying to her that in Ireland the personal will always prevail over the political. (Quoted interview-article, Books Ireland, March 1997, pp.45-46.)

Institute of Ideas: ‘So whose right on abortion? It was always a matter of conflicting rights - the right to choose against the right to life... Opinion polls tend to show that people accept that abortion should be legal, but it does not follow that they always consider it moral. It is now more widely conceded that it is a woman’s right to choose what she does with her body; at the same time, it is more deeply recognized that the body within her body is a small human one, and that, as it grows, it acquires more rights ... Perspectives on abortion have changed over the past 35 years, and will change again in the coming times ... When ‘the right to choose’ is extended to the further choice of destroying the unborn, or, alternatively, donating it to grow in a synthetic womb, then we will surely be in a whole new moral dilemma once more’. (Accessed online, 25 March 2007 [link]; ditto on ProChoiceForum [link].)

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References
Katie Donovan, A. N. Jeffares & Brendan Kennelly, eds., Ireland’s Women (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1994), supplies extracts.

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