Tom Kettle: Tributes in London and Dublin to MP killed at Somme

By Stephen Walker
BBC News NI Political Correspondent

Related Topics
Image caption,
A bust of WW1 soldier, scholar and Irish Nationalist MP Thomas Kettle was erected in St Stephen's Green in the centre of Dublin

Tributes have been paid in London and Dublin to mark the centenary of the death of East Tyrone MP Tom Kettle who died at the Somme in 1916.

The Dubliner was a writer, poet, barrister, soldier and politician.

From a staunchly nationalist background, he was a member of the Irish Parliamentary Party and served as MP for East Tyrone from 1906 to 1910.

Born in 1880 he was well-known for being a gifted speaker and a passionate advocate of Irish independence.

Known as Tom or Thomas, in 1914 he was in Belgium purchasing weapons for the Irish Volunteers and witnessed the German invasion of the country.

Image source, Jeffrey Donaldson
Image caption,
A plaque in Westminster commemorating Kettle and other MPs killed in the war

He returned home and helped to recruit thousands of young Irish nationalists into the British Army in defence of Catholic Belgium.

At the outbreak of the Great War he enlisted for service with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and, serving as a lieutenant, he was killed at Ginchy on 9 September 1916.

To mark the centenary of his death, an act of remembrance was held at Westminster that was attended by MPs and representatives of the Irish government.

Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson laid a wreath at the memorial which commemorates the life of the Dublin-born politician.

Image source, Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Image caption,
Kettle was killed 100 years ago during the Battle of the Somme

The DUP MP said he was "honoured " to help host the event in London.

"Tom joined in common cause with the Ulster Volunteers at the Somme and his death symbolises the heavy loses suffered by the 16th Irish Division," he said.

"He is surely deserving of full recognition and remembrance by all of us."

Irish Ambassador to the UK Dan Mulhall also laid a wreath to mark Mr Kettle's life.

Image source, Jeffrey Donaldson
Image caption,
Wreaths were laid in London to commemorate Tom Kettle

"In this decade of commemorations, Kettle's story gives an invaluable insight into the difficult choices that confronted the Irish men and women of that era," Mr Mulhall said.

"Reflecting on his hopes for reconciliation in Ireland and Europe, 100 years on from his death, resonates strongly."

The event in Westminster was also attended by Labour MP Vernon Coaker, the former Northern Ireland shadow secretary, and peers Lord Rogan and Lord Kilclooney.

Foyle MP Mark Durkan also took part in the commemoration at the Palace of Westminster.

An admirer of Mr Kettle, he said the poet and politician was "ahead of his time in seeing our issues in a wider European context".

Mr Durkan said Mr Kettle was "held in great esteem " and said had the 36-year-old survived World War One he would have "made a major mark on Irish society".

In Dublin, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan attended an event to mark Mr Kettle's life and death.

The ceremony was also attended by many members of the extended Kettle family.

Image caption,
The inscription on the monument to Mr Kettle in Dublin is a testimony to the differing reasons why Irish men went to fight in World War One

Paying tribute to him, Mr Flanagan said: "His loss is a reminder of the tragedy of a generation from across Europe who were caught up in the slaughter of World War One."

Shortly before his death in September 1916, Kettle wrote about Irish men who volunteered for military service in the British Army.

The poem entitled "To My Daughter Betty, the Gift of God" contained the poignant lines that Irish men "Died not for flag, nor king, nor emperor. But for a dream, born in a herdsman's shed, And for the secret scripture of the poor".

Today those lines adorn the bottom of his memorial which sits at St Stephen's Green in tribute to a gifted politician, soldier and poet who many believe was ahead of his time.

Image source, Jeffrey Donaldson
Image caption,
Mark Durkan, Jeffrey Donaldson, Dan Mulhall, Lord Rogan, Lord Kilclooney and Vernon Coaker at the Westminster commemoration

More on this story