New book looks at life of de Valera's devoted secretary, Kathleen O'Connell

'The Life and Times of Kathleen O’Connell' is the first book telling the story of a woman whose name is almost invariably mentioned in association with that of Eamon de Valera.

This is because her life derived its deepest significance from her unwavering attachment to whatever cause he espoused. For this reason, any record of her life is bound to throw incidental insights of varying quality on several aspects of de Valera’s career and outlook.

Some of his documentary materials, which she compiled and preserved, particularly her diaries and her confidential communications from de Valera, are an indispensable part of the historical record. This book by Patrick Murray and Paul Murray will confirm her right to be recognised as a historically significant figure.

Officially, Kathleen O’Connell was de Valera’s personal secretary. As this book will show, her role was much more extensive than that. De Valera himself frequently made it clear, at critical phases of his life, for example his imprisonment in 1923 and particularly his total loss of sight in 1952, that he would find it virtually impossible to sustain a political career without Kathleen O’Connell’s continuous help.

The research undertaken in the production of this book explores some surprising occurrences. A fascinating discovery was that Kathleen O’Connell’s great-uncle, Jeremiah O’Sullivan, who was a Fenian, based in London, tried to free another Fenian, imprisoned in Clerkenwell Jail, by using a wheelbarrow full of explosives. As a result of the explosion, the roof of the jail was blown off and the debris killed several passers-by. Jeremiah O’Sullivan was able to escape and ended up in the USA.

Patrick Murray has published many scholarly works on English Literature and Irish History including studies of Shakespeare, Milton, Synge and Beckett. His book Oracles of the God dealing with Church-State relations in Ireland, is a standard work of reference for any scholar who wishes to understand the Irish Civil War and the period immediately following it. His work on Éamon de Valera is widely acclaimed. He has been a contributor to The Dictionary of National Biography, The Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy and Analecta Hibernica.

Paul Murray is an author and researcher. He has written extensively on Partition, the Irish Boundary Commission and the Irish border. He has contributed articles to a number of historical journals. He was an Irish Research Council Scholar from 2000 to 2003.

The book is available at priced at €35.