Mary MacSwiney

1872-1942; sister of Terence MacSwiney [q.v.]; b. London to an Irish father and English mother; moved to Cork at six and ed. at St. Angela’s Convent School; lost a foot in childhood due to infection; taught at private school in England and completed teaching diploma at Cambridge; taught at convent school in Farnborough; suffered death of her mother, 1904; returned to Cork and took teaching post at St. Angela’s; became secretary of Munster Women’s Franchise League, resigning in 1914 when the group lent its support to the war effort; acted as public relations spokesperson during her brother’s hunger strike and kept vigil with his wife Muriel and her own sister Annie until his death on 25 Oct. 1920; toured America for seven months in Republican cause and gave evidence before American Commission on Conditions in Ireland; elected to Dail Eireann for Sinn Féin, 1921;

though a a political confidant of Eamon de Valera, she was refused permission to join Treaty delegation in London by him on account of her extremism (in his own words); joined the anti-Treaty side; spoke for two hours in the Dail against the Treaty and endorsed violent threats to pro-Treaty members; interned in Mountjoy Gaol [prison] and commenced hunger strike and hence released; re-arrested on the way to Liam Lynch’s funeral; re-elected in 1923 but refused to enter the Dail; lost her seat in 1927 election and condemned de Valera for abandoning Sinn Féin for Fianna Fail; became VP of Sinn Féin; called for a boycott of the election; supported Sean Russell in the rejuvenated Sinn Féin war campaign in England; suffered heart attack in 1939 and d. 8 March 1942; known as a ‘sea-green incorruptible’ republican, she proclaimed the all-Ireland sovereignty of the Republic in 1924.

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Irish citizens: ‘All the citizens of Ireland today are legal citizens of the Republic; some are loyal, some disloyal, but all owe the same allegiance even if all do not now pay it.’ (Where We Stand Now: The Truth About the Republic, 1924; cited in D. George Boyce, Nationalism in Ireland, London: Routledge 1982, p.340.)

English suffragettes: While secretary of the Munster Women’s Franchise League, she expressed ‘abhorrence of the wicked actions of the English suffragettes’ (Irish Citizen, 3 Aug. 1912), when Leigh and Evans attempted to burn the theatre in which Asquith appeared in Dublin. (See Margaret Ward, ‘“The Suffrage Above All Else!”: An Account of the Irish Suffrage Movement”, in Irish Women’s Studies: A Reader, ed. Ailbhe Smyth, Dublin: Attic Press 1993, p.32.)

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Martin Mansergh, ‘An Unfading Green: Mistaken attempts to deny legitimacy to the new Ireland’, in Times Literary Supplement (10 July 1998), p.15: ‘In 1939 the Second Dáil was effectively wound up and its “authority” passed on to the IRA, because as Mary MacSwiney, sister of an earlier hungerstrike martyr, Terence MacSwiney, remarked of Sinn Féin, “it was hopeless to expect the rank and file of the people … to join our organisation which stands on the position of 1919”.’

Margaret Ward, ‘“The Suffrage Above All Else!”: An Account of the Irish Suffrage Movement”, in Irish Women’s Studies: A Reader, ed. Ailbhe Smyth (Dublin: Attic Press 1993) gives an account of her objection to English suffragette violence in Ireland [see Quotations, supra], and reports her resignation from the secretaryship of the Munster Women’s Franchise League when that group lent its support to the war effort, forming an ambulance corps while banning the Irish Citizen in Nov. 1914 (Ward., op. cit., p.39.)

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