James Fitzgerald-Kenney, S.C. Minister for Justice from 1927 until 1932
Following is the obituary for Mr. James Fitzgerald-Kenney, S.C taken from the Connaught Telegraph, Saturday, October 27th, 1956
Passing of Noted Mayo Man Mr. James Fitzgerald-Kenney, S.C.
The death has taken place in a Dublin nursing home of Mr. James Fitzgerald-Kenney, S.C., who was Minister for Justice from 1927 until 1932.
Born in Clogher, Mayo, on April 30th, 1878, Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney was the second son of the late Mr. James Christopher Fitzgerald-Kenney, Kilclogher, Co. Galway, and his wife, Helena, who was daughter of Major P. Crean-Lynch, of Clogher House and Hollybrook, Co. Mayo. He was educated at Clongowes Wood College and University College, Dublin, from whence he graduated in 1898 with a degree in History, Political Economy and Jurisprudence. He was called to the Irish Bar the following year, and at once joined the Connaught Circuit, where he came into prominence as a defender of prisoners. His forensic abilities, combined with a very wide knowledge of law, soon acquired for him a very extensive business in all courts. He was called to the Inner Bar in 1925.
He was one of the earliest pioneers of the Gaelic League in his native county, and took a prominent part in the affairs of that association, being founder and chairman for many years of a successful branch in his own district. His interest in the Irish language continued all through his life.
Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney joined the Irish Volunteers in 1914, and for a period was inspecting officer for South Mayo. A striking speech, delivered by him at French Hill, Castlebar, which is still spoken of by those who heard it, stirred up a great deal of enthusiasm among the local Volunteers during the early days of the Irish movement. He remained a follower of Mr. Redmond right up to the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty.
He was elected to the Dail as a Deputy for South Mayo, in June, 1927, and shortly after this disappearance of the late Mr. Kevin O’Higgins from the political scene, was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Justice, a portfolio then held by the President of the Executive Council, Mr. William T. Cosgrave. After his re-election to the Dail, in the September General Election of 1927, he was appointed Minister for Justice. He defended his seat in 1932 and remained a Dail Deputy until 1944.
When appointed Minister he was, as the least experienced member of the Cabinet, for a time a constant target of the Opposition. His training as a King’s Counsellor served him well, however. He proved quite imperturbable and met the most difficult attacks with a bland smile and unfailing good humour. He also showed himself to be a possessor of an invaluable gift for framing impromptu answers to questions hurled at him by way of interruption so awkwardly for his opponents that they could neither accept them nor entirely disagree with them.
In addition to his legal practice, Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney, who was enormously popular in his constituency, devoted much of his time to farming the land at Clogher House, Claremorris, Co. Mayo, which he inherited from his mother.
His last connection with political life in this country was when, in 1944, the Council of the Bar of Ireland nominated him for election to the Senate. He thanked the members of his profession for paying him this honour, but withdrew his candidature and retired to his farm.
Taken from the Connaught Telegraph, Saturday, October 27th, 1956
Ivor Hamrock, Local History Department, Castlebar Central Library, John Moore Rd, Castlebar, Co. Mayo.Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: +353 (0)94 9047953