Socialist politician from Limerick, Ireland. Member of the Irish Labour party, which he left for a time to start his own party, the Democratic Socialist Party, which was eventually subsumed back into Labour.

A genuine man of the people, Kemmy was untypically scrupulous for a politician of his era, and earned the love and respect of many. However, he was unpopular with conservative elements, and made many enemies through his support of the right to divorce and abortion, and his opposition to violent republicanism. He died in 1997.

I personally think that Kemmy was such an admirable figure, that it's worth adding the following biography, taken from Local Ireland (

Seen by many as "an icon of the left," Jim Kemmy was born into a family of stone masons in Limerick. In the course of time, whether publishing biting journalism, spearheading social change, influencing - and controversially, bringing down - the government, or compiling The Limerick Anthology, Mr Kemmy became a well-known and much-loved public figure. Combining the attributes of compassion, courage, clarity of thought and enormous energy, he worked tirelessly for society's underdogs.

Jim was raised in the working-class district of Garryowen, the eldest in a family of five. Studious and shy as a boy, he showed early promise as a writer. Family circumstances and his class background, however, resulted in his leaving school early to become apprenticed as a stone mason. Witnessing his father's death from TB and becoming the family bread-winner at eighteen years of age brought his youth and early hopes in life to a sudden end. Work being scarce in 1950s Ireland, he was forced to emigrate to find a job.

During his three years working in England Jim's view of the world was turned on its head. In contrast to the Catholic culture of conservatism and censorship prevailing in Ireland, London during the 1950s was multi-cultural and free-thinking.

Most significantly, a copy of John Steinbeck's novel In Dubious Battle fell into his hands there. "The book was a revelation," Jim later wrote. "I found that Steinbeck was a different type of writer from the kind I had previously read. He clearly had great working-class sympathies...." Thus began his journey of discovery into the world of working-class politics and socialist thought. He became convinced that Irish society was deeply unjust and resolved to try to change it.

Within months of his return to Limerick in 1960 Jim became involved in union activity and devoted himself to his work. He joined the Labour Party in 1963 and was soon enroled in an extra-mural Diploma in Social Science run by University College Cork.

In the late 1960s Jim was involving speakers like Dr Conor Cruise O'Brien and Bernadette Devlin in large public debates. By the early 1970s differences on issues of race and freedom of speech between Jim and the Labour Party resulted in Jim and thirty eight others leaving the party and forming the Limerick Socialist Organisation. They began publishing their own newspaper - the Limerick Socialist.

The early 1970s also saw Jim join forces with other left-wing organisations to call for the dropping of Articles 2 and three from the Irish Constitution, and in 1974 he was elected to Limerick's City Council as an anti-nationalist socialist advocating the separation of church and state. By 1975 he had controversially and successfully campaigned to set up a family planning clinic in Limerick.

1979 saw him publishing The Old Limerick Journal, a pioneering, popular local history publication in place of the Limerick Socialist. As he promoted local history, literature, the visual arts, heritage and musical traditions, Jim helped marginalised elements of society to enjoy the fruits of civilisation. Elected to the Dail in 1981 as a non-party candidate, Jim's vote held the balance of power in supporting the minority Fine Gael government. Objecting to its harsh budget, Jim voted against that government and brought it down.

He founded the Democratic Socialist Party in 1982. That party's policy on abortion led to Jim losing his Dail seat in the November 1982 general election but he was re-elected in 1987. Under his leadership the DSP merged with Labour in 1990, a move which was instrumental in securing Mary Robinson's nomination in the presidential election.

In 1991 Jim was elected Mayor of Limerick City and in 1992 became Chairperson of the National Labour Party. Recognised by all classes as their representative, during his second mayoral term in 1995/96 Limerick's ladies of the night honoured him with a special presentation. In 1996 the Israeli Ambassador to Ireland awarded Jim the Medal of the City of Jerusalem in recognition of his work on behalf of Limerick's Jewish community.

The Limerick Anthology, edited and introduced by Jim Kemmy, was published in 1996 in the run up to the city's celebration in 1997 of the eighth centenary of its charter. Jim was diagnosed that year with the condition of multiple myeloma, which was the cause of his untimely death shortly afterwards in a Dublin hospital. Jim's sequel to The Limerick Anthology, The Limerick Compendium was published posthumously in 1997 and launched by his friend and admirer, the author Frank McCourt.

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