Republican News · Thursday 30 January 1997

[An Phoblacht]


Helena Maloney

HELENA MOLONEY, actress, trade union activist and revolutionary was born in Dublin in 1884.

She was first attracted to the nationalist movement in the early years of the century by Maud Gonne MacBride.

``I was a young girl dreaming about Ireland when I saw and heard Maud Gonne speaking by the Customs House one August evening in 1903,'' she recalled many years later. ``She was a most lovely figure and she inspired me, as she did many others, with a love of Ireland.''

She joined Inghinidhe na hÉireann (Daughters of Erin) a patriotic feminist organisation in 1903, and five years later she became editor of Bean na hÉireann, a monthly magazine founded by Maud Gonne, which advocated `militancy, separatism and feminism'.

With Countess Markievicz she helped to found Fianna éireann, the republican scouting organisation, in August 1909, which they also instructed in the use of arms. The same year she joined the Abbey Theatre.

Imprisoned for a month in 1911 for throwing stones during the royal visit protest, she had the honour of being the first woman of her generation to be jailed in Ireland's cause. Much to her annoyance, she was released after a few days when her fine was paid anonymously.

Again with Countess Markievicz, she was instrumental in starting the Irish Workers' Co-operative in 1915. And in November of that year, at the request of James Connolly, she became secretary of the Irish Women Workers' Union (IWWU).

Helena Maloney joined the Irish Citizen's Army on Easter Monday 1916, and took part in the attack on Dublin Castle during which her colleague at the Abbey, Seán Connolly, was killed.

Following the Rising she was arrested and imprisoned in Aylesbury Jail. Released in December 1916, she resumed work in the republican and labour movements. She opposed the Treaty and took the republican side in the civil war.

In 1931, Helena Maloney, Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, Maud Gonne and Charlotte Deshard became active in the Prisoners' Dependents' Fund on behalf of the republican prisoners and their relatives.

She became an organiser with her old union, the IWWU, and became President of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. Due to ill-health, however, she retired in 1945.

Helena Moloney, died aged 83 on 28 January 1967, 30 years ago this week.

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