Helena Molony


Life
1884-1967 [freq. var. Moloney]; b. Dublin; actress and trade-unionist; joined Inginidhe na hEireann in 1903, worked closely with Maud Gonne; strenously opposed ‘loyal flunkyism’ of Dublin society centred on the Viceregal Lodge; encouraged James Connolly, then in America, to return to Ireland; co-fnd. with Maud Gonne McBride, and ed., Bean na hEireann, 1908, devoted to separatism and women’s causes; she threw a stone at effigies of George V and his queen in a Grafton St. shop-window during the royal visit, and was charged with high treason, 1910 - although she actually missed her target; released in 1911;
 
acted in The Mineral Workers during 1913 Lock-out, and made speeches at Liberty Hall between her scenes; joined James Connolly in organising women’s workers, and fnded the Irish Women Workers’ Union with James and his sister Delia Larkin, 1913; joined the Citizen Army, 1913; formed the Workers’ Co-op with rooms on Eden Quay; became nominal proprietor of The Workers’ Republic on the suppression of The Irish Irish Worker, 1915; joined Cumann na mBan, 1915; participated in the planning of the 1916 Rising and joined in the attack on Dublin Castle; went with Molly O’Reilly to the GPO to ask for reinforcements; cradled the dying Sean Connolly’s head in her lap, leaving her senior officer at the outpost; later recounting her role as messenger in W. R. Rodgers’s broadcast of 27 March 1956 (published as Irish Literary Portraits, 1972); initially held after Surrender at Ship Street Barracks on terms of arrest, taken to Kilmainham Jail, and thence to internment in England at Ailesbury Gaol; released in general amnesty, 1917;
 
opposed the Treaty, 1921 and engaged on the Republican side in the 1921-23; supported the Vocational Education Act of 1930 as a ‘University of the Poor’; argued for wide provision of social justice, citing Papal Encyclicals, contrary to the corporatist tendency of the Commission on Vocational Organisation; elected President of the Irish Trade Union Congress [ITUC], 1936; member of executive of Saor Eire, and League Against Imperialism; retired from politics, 1945; for Maud Gonne she was ‘Emer, my old friend and comrade’ - in which connection she is appears in early sections of Francis Stuart’s Black List, Section H (1971); her part in the Lock-Out Strike of 1913 was celebrated in “Soup”, a performance outside the Abbey Theatre, in Sept. 2013. DIB

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Criticism
  • Maryann Valiulis, ‘Power, Gender and Identity in the Irish Free State’, in Irish Women’s Voices Past and Present., ed. Joan Hoff & Moureen Coulter (Bloomington: Indiana UP 1995) [q.pp.]
  • Ruth Taillon, When History was Made: The Women of 1916 (Belfast: Beyond the Pale Publications 1996);
  • Louise Ryan, ‘A Question of Loyalty: War, Nation, and Feminism in Early Twentieth- Century Ireland.’, in Women’s Studies International Forum, 20, 1 (1997), pp.21-32.
    [...].


W. R. Rodger’s radio interview with Nora Connolly O’Brien, Louise Gavan Duffy, Helena Molony, and Margaret Kinnider - lasting for a 2 mins. 23 secs. - archived at RTE and availsble online; accessed 16.212.2011.

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Quotations

Column in Bean na hÉireann, 19 (1910)
The necessity for Irish Trades Unionists to apply their energies to form an Irish Federation of Labour independent of the English Amalgamated Societies, and also an Independent Labour Party to further their interests independent of politics, is daily becoming more evident, and it is a surprizing fact that it should have been so long neglected. In these Labour Notes we have brought the matter forward repeatedly, and it was stated that when the interests of the Irish Society clashed with the English Society that the English Labour Party would have to support the English Trade Unions to the detriment of the Irish local societies. Later events have fully justified us in our repeated warnings.
 In Mr James Larkin’s case, we have surely a striking example of the vicious methods to which an English society will descend in order to crush a newly formed Irish society, and perhaps a revision of the history of the case will prove of interest to the readers of Bean na hÉireann.
 James Larkin was originally an organiser of the National Union of Dock Labourers (an English society) and in that capacity he was sent over to organise the Irish Dockers and form branches of the Dockers’ Union.
 He was successful in organising Dublin and Belfast, and finally he was sent down to Cork. In the meantime the members of the Dublin branch had a dispute with their employers, which finally led to a lock-out, and the unfortunate men were thrown out onto the streets. When they applied for help from the English society the Dockers’ Union refused to give any money to the Dublin workers on strike, and ordered Larkin to proceed to Aberdeen and leave the Irish workers in the lurch. This Jim Larkin most manfully refused to do, thereby throwing up a lucrative position and putting himself on the same level as the men on strike. The connection between the Dockers’ Union and Jim Larkin immediately ceased.
 Larkin then devoted his energies and wonderful powers of organising to forming a purely Irish society, which was called the Irish Transport Workers’ Union, which embraced all classes of unskilled workers, and which had its headquarters in Dublin and was governed by an executive body.
 In the meanwhile the Cork men who had originally started to organise their forces, with the intention of amalgamating with the English, hearing of the scandalous treatment of the Dublin workers, decided at a committee meeting to amalgamate with the Transport Union; as they were not amalgamated to the Dockers’ Union, so they decided to support the Irish Society by joining forces with it. This was afterwards ratified by a general meeting, and they duly sent forward their affiliation fees to the Irish Transport Workers. In this we would imagine that they were quite entitled to join any organisation, either English or Irish, as up to that time they were not affiliated to any organisation.
 But the English Society thought differently, and was indignant at so much Irish money escaping from its money-grasping claws. Immediately musty Acts of Parliament were unearthed to discover under what headings the English Society could take action so as to make an Irishman send his money to England instead of investing it at home for the benefit of himself and his fellow workers. In a new Act under Edward VII they discovered a clause which makes it illegal for any committee or general meeting to vote money to any use, different to its original purpose, before first acquainting each individual subscriber of the proposed change of location of funds.
 On this one technical point they relied, although they supplemented it with twenty more items in the indictment. It is quite evident that the Crown must have been influenced to prosecute in the case, and every means were used to secure a conviction, and there can be no doubt that the money belonging to the English Society must have been freely circulated to bring several working men in Cork to come to Dublin to swear away the liberty of the man who had devoted his time and energy in the cause of labour.
 Never before has such a cruel and vindictive sentence been passed for such a small technical offence, and it is to be hoped that the Irish workers generally will recognise the fact that English laws have no sympathy with Irish labour, and it is also worth noting that no questions have been asked in the English House of Parliament, either by the English labour men, or by our own so-called Nationalist members who are always fond of boasting that they are the only friends of the Irish working classes, especially when approaching election times.
—Given at Searc’s Web Guide - online; accessed 16.12.2011.

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Commentary
Margaret MacCurtain
, ‘Women, the Vote, and Revolution’, in Women in Irish Society, ed. MacCurtain & Donncha Ó Corráin (1978), pp.46-57 - quotes Molony: Commenting on the name of her column in The Irish Worker, she wrote, ‘To the employing class [it] has a sweet sound. They know that in these workers they have an extraordinary cheap means of producing wealth’. (p.51.)

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Francis Stuart, Black List, Section H (S. Illinois UP 1971; London: Martin, Brian & O’Keeffe 1975) - describing the way in which his marriage to Iseult Gonne was driven by Maud Gonne’s designs for her daughter: ‘When Helen Molony arrived as an emissary of Madame MacBride, the sensible manner (as if it was the most natural thing in the world) in which she discussed the wedding, completely won Libby Clements [H’s mother] over.’ (1975 Edn., p.26.) Note that the couple stop at Molony’s rooms near St. Francis Xavier, the church on Upr. Gardiner St. where they are married, before going to the MacBride cottage in Wicklow where they consummate their relations - and begin their married life together - a life marked by sharp antagonisms.

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References
Irish Labour History Museum: ‘The Ancient Order of Hibernians in America granted a charter to Division 61 in Philadelphia on October 1st, 1895. The organizer was William J. O'Rourke.’ (See Ancient Order of Hibernians 61 [AOH61] website history page - online [Note: The Irish Labour History Museum page is now blocked by a notice declaring that it is a banned site and has been permanently removed (online; accessed 16.12.2011.]

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Notes
Portrait: Jane McL. Côté, Fanny & Anna Parnell (Macmillan 1991), contains a photo-port of Molony in c.1920 wearing Abbey play costume.

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