There is much speculation about James Connolly, his attitude towards religion and the Irish language. Anti-Irish language left wingers I have met have remarked that Connolly was ambivalent towards Irish, indeed he said:
Although, this was said in context and he appears generally approving of the language movement:You cannot teach starving men Gaelic
James Connolly: The Language Movement (1898)
The issue of his faith is contentious too. The only definitive remark he made with respect to his religion was:
Yet, there is ample evidence he was a man of faith:though I have usually posed as a Catholic, I have not done my duty for 15 years, and have not the slightest tincture of faith left…
- Originally Posted by Big Jim Larkin
- Scott Herbert (acquaintance in the British labour movement) called him "devoutly Catholic"
- His writtings
- Made last Confession and received Holy Communion the 1st and 2nd of May 1916, respectively, and again Friday 12th.
- Daniel de Leon, leader of the Socialist Labour Party USA refers to him, among other things, a "Jesuit spy"
- Wife Lillie converts to Catholicism 15th August 1916
Concerning the first occasion, his Confessor Fr. Aloysius records this amusing and poignant exchange:
In the morning I gave Holy Communion to James Connolly. Later in the day I went with Father Augustine to Headquarters, Infirmary Road and met General (Sir John) Maxwell....
When I reached Kilmainham Gaol I was informed that Thomas MacDonagh also wished for my ministrations. I was taken to the prisoners' cells and spent some hours between the two. "You will be glad to know that I gave Holy Communion to James Connolly this morning," I said to Pearse when I met him. "Thank God," he replied, "it is the one thing I was anxious about."
I thought I would add this piece of evidence: the Connolly family census returns, 1911 from 70 South Lotts Road in Ringsend:
National Archives: Census of Ireland 1911
Connolly clearly lists himself as a Roman Catholic and declares that he can speak English and Irish.
Not usually thought of as a Gaelgóir, I wonder will this change people's perception of him??
Also, he apparently believes we Irish have certain "racial characteristics" worth salvaging.
Over to you, Clare Daly!