Ian Mc Keane reviews The Open Secret of Ireland by Thomas Kettle (new introduction by Senia Pašeta), UCD Press Classics of Irish History series, ISBN 978-1-904558-76-7, £13.95/€20.00 pbk
THIS BOOK by the Home Rule MP and sometime academic Tom Kettle was originally published in 1912.
Kettle represented the younger generation of constitutional nationalists in the years just before the the first world war.
Born into a relatively well-off farming family, Tom was educated at Clogowes Wood College and later UCD. He graduated in 1902 and was called to the Bar in 1906.
He soon concentrated on journalism and politics and worked to support Redmond's Irish Parliamentary Party. He was elected M.P. for East Tyrone in 1906, one of the very few of his generation to join the ranks of the IPP at Westminster. A confident linguist, fluent in French and German, he translated Louis Paul-Dubois' masterly, Contemporary Ireland into English in 1908.
The Open Secret is a set of articles written in support of Home Rule and giving Kettle's view of the Home Rule issue, Ireland and her place in the world as perceived by constitutional nationalists. It has evidence of Kettle's knowledge of the ideas of Taine and Michelet and of his willingness to confront the issue of Ulster.
To the modern reader what is fascinating is that, with hindsight, we can see that the 'open secret' of Ireland was that the independence cat would be soon out of the bag - something that Kettle and his contemporaries had no way of knowing.
While the book was written to remove preconceptions from the British reader and 'put him (sic) 'in rapport with the true spirit of the Ireland of actuality' it now comes down to us as a view from a far-away country.
Nevertheless, it is of great value in providing an insight into the political thought and style of one of the younger generation of the IPP. Kettle could write well and he puts his arguments persuasively.
Events were to conspire against him and depression and alcoholism became his personal demons.
Work as a war correspondent and then finally success in joining up to fight on the soil of his beloved France probably were his responses to his internal personal battles.
His friend, T.P. O'Connor, tried to have him recalled from the Somme but too late - Tom Kettle was killed at Ginchy near Bapaume in September 1916.
Ireland lost so many young men that year. While Kettle is perhaps not so well known these days despite his bust in Stephen's Green, the re-issue of this book is to be lauded in that it allows us a glimpse of a political view which was to be one of the victims of 1916 and what followed.
For anyone who is intrigued by the political and intellectual arguments for Home Rule in the Edwardian period this is an essential resource.
Connolly Association, c/o RMT, Unity House, 39 Chalton Street, London, NW1 1JD
Copyright © 2007 Ian McKeane