Liam Mellows and the Irish Revolution

By C. Desmond Greaves | Go to book overview

CHAPTER NINE
THE IRISH PROGRESSIVE LEAGUE

FOR Mellows, stranded in war-time America, his original mission completed, and no authority able or willing to suggest to him another, the sensible course was to do what lay to his hand, to strive to influence events in and from the United States. He was released from the Tombs in the last exciting days of the mayoral election contest. Although the entire Irish and Catholic press was for Hillquit, it was the Irish Progressive League that led the way. The Irish Socialists were proud of his internationalism. He had accepted the Bolshevik definition of a peace without annexations or indemnities. This was to say that not only must Germany vacate Belgium. Britain must vacate India, Egypt and Ireland.

The spirit of James Connolly was abroad. His daughter Nora, who had been Treasurer of the Irish Socialist Federation, was now Treasurer of the League. Patrick Quinlan attended from time to time. Premises were provided by J. E. C. Donnelly who had financed and printed The Harp. Hannah Sheehy-Skeffington provided the link with the Socialist Party of Ireland, and Con O’Lyhane, who presided over the meeting at the Imperial Hotel on 1st November, had founded the Cork branch of the Irish Socialist Republican Party. In addition there were Frank Robbins of the Citizen Army and other 1916 refugees. The core of activists included a few leading Irish-Americans, such as Peter Golden and Dr. Gertrude Kelly. As he walked home with Nora Connolly and Frank Robbins after one of the final meetings, Mellows was asked his opinion of socialism. He replied that he had read Connolly’s Labour in Irish History and agreed with its conclusions. But he was not sure that he understood Connolly’s Marxism.

A house-party was held to celebrate Mellows’ release. Another of Connolly’s old I.S.F. comrades was present, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. She remarked jokingly that they had recently shared a state residence. “Indeed!” expostulated a somewhat starchy Irish-American lady, “and what were you in prison for, Miss Flynn?” Mellows interjected with something nearer scorn than was usual to him. “Don’t you understand,” he asked, “that there is a struggle for peace and freedom in this country too?” He never forgot his experiences in the Tombs, nor the

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