If you were at the Harold’s Cross Festival in 2016, you may have seen Joe Kelly talking about his family’s involvement in 1916 at an event in McGowans on the 11th May. It is with much regret that we heard of his recent death and wish to extend our sympathies to his family members.
Joe Kelly, speaking at the event in McGowans in May.
Joe’s sister Patricia, who lives in the family home in Larkfield, with their father’s 1916 medals.
Below is the text of the obituary that was in the Irish Times on the 7th January 2017.
With abundant good humour, Joe Kelly lived by the conviction that nothing was too good for the working class. He was a tireless socialist activist who exemplified the kindness to others he always insisted was crucial to every campaign’s effectiveness.
His commitment to justice and fairness was kindled in the family home by parents Joe and May, who, in their own ways, fought and lived through the 1916 Rising. His father was in Bolands Mills, aged 16, with his brother Tom. One of Joe Kelly’s proudest acts was to commemorate their contribution to creating an Irish Republic a 100 years later in the Larkfield house in Kimmage, Dublin, where he grew up.
His working life began at age 14 when he followed his father into the GPO as a boy messenger. Never an early riser, Kelly was persistently on punishment duty for being late. Nevertheless, the post office enabled him to take a degree in history and Irish in UCD and he became a teacher.
Kelly never courted popularity at the expense of his beliefs. In his youth officer days with Comhairle Le Leas Óige (the Youth Service of the CDVEC) in 1970s-1980s inner city, his Killarney Street office was open to all – driving his bosses demented while providing a useful resource for those community activists whose objectives became his own. Years later, his early and ardent support of the miscarriages of justice campaigns almost landed himself and his friends in a Moscow jail for distributing Free the Birmingham Six leaflets in Red Square.
Kelly did pioneering work during his many years as an adult education officer with City of Dublin VEC. He was instrumental in setting up KLEAR (Kilbarrack Local Education for Adult Renewal), encouraging many women to take up daytime adult education. Many remember a man who persuaded them to stop wanting the world to change and consider how they could change it themselves.
He searched for, but never found, a political home. Either the politics of a party / grouping took a turn he couldn’t support or the method of doing business took too little account of ordinary members.
Soccer and cricket (his father brought him into town as a youngster to study Test match results) were lifelong passions. He played guitar, piano and latterly the cello, never happier than when he was singing with his children.
As a fundraiser for numerous causes, he brought a sparkle and big smile into the quiz ring, generating fun, money and new recruits. His constancy to Emma Goldman’s “If I can’t dance I don’t want to be part of your revolution” was legendary.
Political to the end, his funeral notice sought donations for the “Repeal” campaign, while his wake culminated in a hearty rendition of The Internationale by family and comrades.
He is survived by his partner Flo Gaffney, his son Séamus and daughter Niamh, his brothers Bobby and Jim, sister Patty and grandchildren Ailbhe and Bláithín.