RTÉ One, Thursday, 7.00pm

Scannal - Sex and Politics

Think of all the great sex scandals you have ever heard of and put them all together. They still come nowhere near the story of Parnell and Kitty O'Shea.

Charles Stewart Parnell was the "Uncrowned King of Ireland", a man at the height of his personal and political powers when the story of his affair with a married woman hit the headlines. The public were shocked to learn that he was living with Katherine O'Shea, the wife of Captain William O'Shea, and that he had already fathered three children by her.

The press and the public went absolutely crazy as the details of the ten-year affair were pored over in ever-increasing detail. The Irish Party, of which Parnell was leader, tore itself apart. The Catholic Church then condemned Parnell and Irish by-elections became the forum for mud-slinging and pitched battles between the pro and anti-Parnell factions.

Katherine O'Shea was reviled and publicly insulted. She was "that English whore", the bad woman whose affair with Parnell broke the Irish dreams of liberation. Even the nickname "Kitty" was an insult. In Victorian England, "Kitty" meant "prostitute"

Parnell's health was broken by the scandal and the reaction to it, and although he married Katherine O'Shea after her divorce to Captain O'Shea, he died soon afterwards.

The story of Parnell and Katherine O'Shea is a story of intense love, of clandestine meetings, of jealousy and hatred, and the beginnings of that great Irish curse, "The Political Split". Above all else, it is a story of great hypocrisy.

Presenter/Reporter: Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh
Producer/Director: Seán Ó Méalóid.

RTÉ One, Monday, 7.30pm

follow us on twitter @RTE_Scannal

What's On