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Hanna Sheehy Skeffington weak but recovering from hunger strike in London
Hanna Sheehy Skeffington Photo: National Museum of Ireland

Hanna Sheehy Skeffington weak but recovering from hunger strike in London

London, 14 August 1918 - Hanna Sheehy Skeffington is recovering, at the Gower Hotel in London, from the effects of her recent hunger strike.

In a letter to her sister, Mary Kettle, Mrs Sheehy Skeffington stated that while she was still weak, this hunger strike was not as traumatic as those that she had undertaken on behalf of the women’s suffrage movement.

Sheehy Skeffington went on hunger strike last week after being arrested on Dublin’s Westmoreland Street. She was taken to the Bridewell and, later, to Holloway Jail in England. No charge was levelled against her and no reason was given for her imprisonment.

In the course of her incarceration, concerns were voiced for her health. As acknowledged by the Irish Independent, Mrs Sheehy Skeffington is known to be ‘a woman of most determined will’, but she was also known to be ‘afflicted by a weak heart’. This led to questions being asked of the British government as to whether they wanted to be held responsible for ‘another Ashe tragedy’, a reference to Thomas Ashe, who died after being force-fed while on hunger strike in September 1917.

On being released from Holloway, Sheehy Skeffington was informed that she must notify the authorities of any change to her address, to which she replied that she would not notify them of her movements. She is currently awaiting a reply to an application for a permit to return to Ireland.

As well as being a committed political activist, Mrs Sheehy Skeffington is the widow of Francis Sheehy Skeffington who was murdered in the midst of the unrest of Easter week 1916. Mrs Sheehy Skeffington’s sister, Mary, whose home was searched in the aftermath of Hanna’s arrest, has also experienced deep loss in recent years. Her husband, Tom Kettle, was killed in action on the western front in September of the same year.

Hanna Sheehy Skeffington (L) with her sister Mary Kettle leaving the inquiry into Francis Sheehy Skeffington's death in Dublin in 1916 (Image: Irish Life, 1 Sept 1916. Full collection available at the National Library of Ireland)

[Editor's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]

RTÉ

Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.