Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly, a pivotal figure in republican politics who uniquely held seats simultaneously in Belfast and Dublin parliaments, died this week.

Mr Kelly, who was originally from Pomeroy, County Tyrone, passed away in New York on Tuesday.

Born in 1922 in Dungannon, he became a volunteer in the Irish Republican Army and was imprisoned in Crumlin Road jail, Belfast during the 1940s.

He split from the mainstream Republican Movement about 1950 after being accused of ‘insubordination’. He then set up a political organisation confined to the Six Counties called Fianna Uladh, which was the political wing of Saor Uladh, a small breakaway IRA armed group at the time.

Mr Kelly was imprisoned in the North for ‘sedition’ in 1953. It was alleged by RUC witnesses that during an election meeting the previous October he had said from a public platform: “I will not give allegiance to the bastard Queen of a bastard nation. Do I believe in force? The answer is Yes, the more the better and the sooner the better.”

In his court appearance, he delivered an address believed by some to have been written for him by Sean Mac Bride, then a TD in the Dublin parliament: “It is not sedition for an Irishman to say that Ireland belongs to the Irish people and that no foreign monarch or country has a right to claim or exercise jurisdiction in any part of Ireland.”

He said he would not recognise any court set up in Ireland by the British Crown. But in a profound break with republican tradition at the time, he stated in court that he “accepted and upheld” the 1937 Constitution of the 26 Counties, paving the way for greater republican political involvement in the 26-County institutions.

While in jail, Kelly was elected, on an anti-partition ticket, as an abstentionist candidate for the Stormont constituency of Mid Tyrone at the 1953 Six-County general election.

Upon being released from jail he returned to his hometown of Pomeroy were a crowd of ten thousand had gathered to welcome him home.

Kelly held this seat until the following general election, though - as an abstentionist - he never attended Stormont.

It was his association with Sean McBride and his party, Clann na Poblachta, and its support for Fine Gael, that led to his subsequent nomination and election to the Seanad, the upper house of the Dublin parliament.

In 1959, Kelly moved to the United States, and by the 1970s he was the chair of the powerful Republican Clubs organisation there and maintained his involvement in the struggle until his death this week.

He was an uncle of the (Provisional) IRA volunteer Patrick Kelly, a member of the East Tyrone Brigade, who was shot dead by British forces at Loughgall in 1987. His late son-in-law Gerry Loughran, also originally from Dungannon, was a Sinn Fein councillor in Monaghan.

Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness said Liam Kelly had devoted his long life to campaign for Irish independence.

“Even after Liam left Ireland for the USA he retained a high interest in Irish affairs. Other members of the Kelly family have played a central role in the Republican struggle going back to the Fenian Movement.”

He is survived by his loving wife Peggy of 64 years, son Kieran and daughters Ellis, Sheila, Una, and Bernadette.

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© 2011 Irish Republican News