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New Professors’ Inaugural Lecture Series with Professor Niamh Reilly: The social and political thought of Tom Kettle: Recovering a distinctive Irish Thinker

June 21, 2018 @ 5:00 pm


June 21, 2018
5:00 pm


Seminar Room G010, Hardiman Research Building


Sean Crosson

The social and political thought of Tom Kettle: Recovering a distinctive Irish Thinker

Tom Kettle (1880-1916) is not very well known in Ireland today. Yet, historian Senia Pašeta notes he ‘was associated with almost every major political and cultural development’ during his lifetime. He was a gifted public intellectual, essayist, journalist, nationalist MP (1906-1910) and a soldier killed in the Battle of the Somme in 1916. In the first decade of the 20th century competing visions of future independent Ireland had vied for space, from ‘Irish-Irelander’ to cosmopolitan. Kettle stood for constitutional democracy and a non-sectarian, self-governing Irish nation and cautioned against the insular tendencies of cultural nationalism.  After his death, many appreciations lamented the loss of his brilliance — as a thinker and writer, and especially as an orator. Following the 1916 Rising and the turn to separatist nationalism, Kettle was almost forgotten. Recently, he has figured more prominently in public discourse than at any time since his death. In this limited narrative, he is invoked as a conciliatory figure who demonstrates the possibility of combining the identities of ‘British soldier’, ‘Irish patriot’ and ‘European’ and is largely constructed as a precursor to Ireland’s contemporary business-friendly ‘centre-right’. However, there is a larger and more complex story to be told about Tom Kettle. He was a vocal advocate for the rights women and labour and a Catholic intellectual who supported the separation of Church and State.  Although his qualities as an activist thinker were widely recognised during his lifetime, Kettle’s extensive writings and speeches have been largely ignored since. This lecture draws on continuing research into the social and political thought of Tom Kettle. It outlines the expansive scope of his thinking and influences, and his ideas about democracy and social justice, Irish nationalism and unionism, national development, religion and religious identity, militarism and internationalism —  all of which, it is argued, remain salient today.


Niamh Reilly is Established Professor of Political Science and Sociology at the National University of Ireland, Galway. She has published widely on issues of gender and human rights; feminist political and social theory; religion and gender in the public sphere; transnational women’s movements and the United Nations; and women, peace and security. Her book, Women’s Human Rights: Seeking Gender Justice in a Globalizing Age (Polity Press, 2009) was selected as an “Outstanding Academic Title for 2010” by the American Library Association/CHOICE. She is co-author of Demanding Accountability: The Global Campaign and Vienna Tribunal for Women’s Human Rights (UNIFEM 1994) (with Distinguished Professor Charlotte Bunch, Rutgers University).  Niamh has many years’ experience working with United Nations processes and Civil Society Organisations internationally and has served as an independent expert on the Irish government’s Department of Foreign Affairs’ Standing Committee on Human Rights (1997-1999) and its Consultative Group to draft Ireland’s National Action Plan on UN Security Council 1325 (2010-2011). Before joining NUI Galway in 2007, Niamh was a Research Council of the UK Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Transitional Justice Institute, University of Ulster and a postdoctoral fellow in Women’s Studies and Politics at the University of Limerick Ireland. Niamh is co-founder (with Dr. Breda Gray) the NUI Galway-UL research network Gender ARC.  Her research interests focus on the theory and practice of gender, human rights and international politics. Her most recent book is an edited collection (with S Scriver) entitled Religion, Gender and the Public Sphere (Routledge 2014). She is editor of The Human Rights of Women (Springer, Major Reference Works, forthcoming 2018).   In the context of Ireland’s decade of centenaries (1912-1922), she is currently preparing a book on the political and social thought of Thomas Kettle (1880-1916).