• C.M. Martello

Statue of James Connelly in Chicago's Union Park.


“I think your dad had a great influence on you too,” Bari said in a serious tone. “Did your father ever relent about religion?”

“No. Mom loved her faith and simply ignored the faults of the clergy as not important. That attitude drove my father crazy, particularly when she would say, ‘the loving and merciful God, because of the intercession of Jesus and His mother Mary, is going to forgive them just as He is going to forgive you your heathen ways.’

Dad outlived my mom by a few years year. He made me promise I wouldn’t go sentimental and bury him in consecrated ground next to my mom. He wanted to be cremated and his ashes spread at Kilmainham jail in Dublin—and that’s what I did.”

“A jail?”

“The place where so many from the Easter Rebellion were executed. One of his heroes Connolly was shot there. He was a labor leader. He was too weak from his wounds to stand so they shot him in a chair. My father used to say the jeering of the Dublin workingman as the rebels were marched off was harder for Connolly to bear than the English bullets that killed him.”

“I can understand that,” Bari said.

“Don’t worry, O’Grady won’t shoot you.”

“Are you sure?” Bari asked, laughing.

“On that doctrine, I’m infallible,” Malachy said. “And I’m not even Italian. That’s another thing my mother used to say, ‘Why don’t they try an Irishman? They couldn’t do any worse than that run of Popes Pius. On that even my father agreed, at least until O’Grady started to move up the ladder…


JAMES CONNOLLY (1868-1916)

It is a safe bet that no other Irish Republican socialist labor leader has statutes in Belfast, Dublin, and Chicago. Those statues are a tribute to the impact of Connolly's relentless fierce advocacy of the cause of working men and women and Irish Republicanism in Ireland, America, and Great Britain. He promoted the causes he dedicated his life to through a whirlwind of writing, speeches, organizing and protest activities. He founded or heavily influenced a long list of union, socialist, and Irish Republican organizations, parties, journals and newspapers.

Connolly was born in “Little Ireland” in Edinburgh, Scotland of Irish immigrant parents who had moved there from Monaghan, Ireland. (Monaghan is one of the three Ulster counties that ended up in the Irish Free State). He had very little formal schooling and was in the workforce by age 11. A few years later he followed the example of his older brother and falsified his age and name and joined the British Army, and was stationed in Ireland. He deserted when his regiment was going to be transferred to India, returned to Edinburgh with the woman who would become his wife, and soon after started his career as a socialist, union, and Irish Republican activist. The majority of his twenty-five year career (1891-1916) was spent in Dublin with a seven year period in America from 1903 to 1910.

For Connolly all of Ireland's many travails, including famine, destitution for many of the rural and urban poor, and repression of Catholics were caused by the capitalist plutocracy in Great Britain and Ireland. The solution? A socialist democratic republic established by force if necessary. The quotes below are from his Socialism and Nationalism:

No action Connolly ever took in life to promote the Irish Republic he passionately believed in was as powerful as his manner of death. Near death from the wounds he received in the Easter Rising, he was moved by stretcher to the courtyard of Kilmainham Gaol, strapped to a chair, and executed by an English firing squad. That death, along with the execution of the other leaders of the Rising, dramatically shifted an indifferent to hostile Irish public opinion, leading eventually to the Irish Free State and then to an Irish Republic excluding six counties in Ulster.