Parnell and the Kitty O’Shea connection

A well known Member of Parliment writes: “The title you have prefixed to your reminiscences of the late Irish leader, ‘The Tragedy of Parnell’, induces me to relate that I happened to be present at occurrence seemingly of little moment, which, however, must be regarded as the supreme crisis in Parnell’s life, and a blight on his career. “I had known Mr. Parnell since the General Election of 1874, and had, at considerable intervals, met him. I was at Ennis Quarter Sessions during the General Election of 1880.

Mr Parnell who had been collecting money in America when the time arranged by the cabinet for the dissolution was announced, immediately returned to Ireland and commenced an active election campaign.

He was particularly anxious to secure the return of Mr. Finegan for Ennis. Mr Finegan had, at a bye-election for Ennis in July 1879, defeated the present Mr Justice O’Brien, the Whig candidate, and every effort was strained to ensure Mr. Finegan’s success at the General Election against Mr O’Brien, who was again contesting the seat. Mr Parnell came to Ennis to support Mr. Finegan, who was the first man who had entered the House of Commons as his declared follower.

“I was staying at Carmody’s Hotel Ennis, No private sitting-room was available in the emergency of the election. My friends of the Bar and myself took our means in the public coffee room.

“One afternoon at luncheon time, Mr Parnell and Mr Finegan entered the coffee room, and as they were sitting at luncheon The O’Gorman Mahon came in with Captain O’Shea, whom he introduced to Mr. Parnell.

“The O’Gorman Mahon had been one of the members for the County Clare in the late Parliament, and he and Captain O’Shea were contesting the county on Home Rule principles, and were returned.
“My recollection is that the introduction was formal in its character and led to little, if any conversation, and that Mr Parnell shortly afterwards left the hotel with Mr Finegan, for the purpose of aiding him in his canvass.

“In the light, however, of after events, I look upon that casual meeting in a remote country town, to which no one could attach any significance as the beginning of the end of Parnell.”
* This letter appeared in the Clare Journal in January 1899.

Courtesy of the Clare Champion
January 2003