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MURRAY, Patrick and Paul. The Life And Times Of Kathleen O’Connell 1888 to 1956: Eamon de Valera’s Indispensable Secretary. Limited edition of 25 copies only in special binding and housed in a slipcase.
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Dublin: De Búrca, 2022. Royal octavo. pp. 243. This is the first book dealing with the life and times of Kathleen O’Connell. When her name is mentioned, it is almost invariably in association with that of Eamon de Valera. This is because her life derived its deepest significance from her unwavering attachment to whatever cause he espoused. For this reason, any record of her life is bound to throw incidental insights of varying quality on several aspects of de Valera’s career and outlook. Some of his documentary materials, which she compiled and preserved, particularly her diaries and her confidential communications from de Valera, are an indispensable part of the historical record. This book will confirm her right to be recognised as a historically significant figure. Officially, Kathleen O’Connell was de Valera’s personal secretary. As this book will show, her role was much more extensive than that. De Valera himself frequently made it clear, at critical phases of his life, for example his imprisonment in 1923 and particularly his total loss of sight in 1952, that he would find it virtually impossible to sustain a political career without Kathleen O’Connell’s continuous help.
The research undertaken in the production of this book explores some surprising occurrences. For example, we found that a Free State Minister for Defence tried to persuade the British authorities to provide his government with poison gas as a weapon of war. The British authorities refused, but offered tear gas instead, which the Free State Minister declared inadequate. Another fascinating discovery was that Kathleen O’Connell’s great-uncle, Jeremiah O’Sullivan, who was a Fenian, based in London, tried to free another Fenian, imprisoned in Clerkenwell Jail, by using a wheelbarrow full of explosives. As a result of the explosion, the roof of the jail was blown off and the debris killed several passers-by. Jeremiah O’Sullivan was able to escape and ended up in the U.S.A.
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