Arthur Clery
Arthur Edward Clery was an Irish
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 politician and university professor.

Early life and education

His father, Art Ua Cleirigh, was a barrister practising in India who published books on early Irish history. Clery was brought up to a considerable extent by a relative, Charles Dawson. A cousin, William Dawson (who used the pen-name "Avis"), became his closest friend and associate. Clery was educated at the Catholic University School
Catholic University School
Catholic University School is a Roman Catholic secondary school for boys located on the southside of central Dublin, Ireland. It is run by the Marist Fathers.-Origins:...

 on Leeson Street (where he acquired the confirmation name "Chanel" in honour of the Marist martyr Peter Chanel
Peter Chanel
Pierre Louis Marie Chanel, known in English as Saint Peter Chanel was a Catholic priest, missionary, and martyr.-Early years:Chanel was born in La Potière near Cuet in the area of Belley, Ain département, France....

, which he often used as a pseudonym), at Clongowes Wood College
Clongowes Wood College
Clongowes Wood College is a voluntary secondary boarding school for boys, located near Clane in County Kildare, Ireland. Founded by the Society of Jesus in 1814, it is one of Ireland's oldest Catholic schools, and featured prominently in James Joyce's semi-autobiographical novel A Portrait of the...

, and University College in Stephen's Green. He was a university contemporary of James Joyce
James Joyce
James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet, considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century...


Professional life

Clery's principal themes included the difficulties of Roman Catholic graduates seeking professional employment, dramatic criticism (he hailed Lady Gregory
Augusta, Lady Gregory
Isabella Augusta, Lady Gregory , born Isabella Augusta Persse, was an Irish dramatist and folklorist. With William Butler Yeats and Edward Martyn, she co-founded the Irish Literary Theatre and the Abbey Theatre, and wrote numerous short works for both companies. Lady Gregory produced a number of...

's play Kincora as the Abbey Theatre
Abbey Theatre
The Abbey Theatre , also known as the National Theatre of Ireland , is a theatre located in Dublin, Ireland. The Abbey first opened its doors to the public on 27 December 1904. Despite losing its original building to a fire in 1951, it has remained active to the present day...

's first undoubted masterpiece but was repulsed by the works of Synge
John Millington Synge
Edmund John Millington Synge was an Irish playwright, poet, prose writer, and collector of folklore. He was a key figure in the Irish Literary Revival and was one of the cofounders of the Abbey Theatre...

), Catholic-Protestant rivalry and tension within the Dublin professional class, and the vagaries of the Gaelic Revival movement (including Clery's own attempts to learn Irish in Ballingeary
Béal Átha an Ghaorthaidh is a village in the Shehy Mountains in County Cork, Ireland.The village is within the Gaeltacht and has an active Irish-language summer school, Coláiste na Mumhan...

, and such questions as whether a true Gael should play tennis).

Clery is best-remembered, however, for his advocacy of partition on the basis of a two-nation theory
Two Nations Theory (Ireland)
The Two Nations Theory holds that the Ulster Protestants are a distinct Irish nation.According to S J Connolly's Oxford Companion to Irish History The Two Nations Theory holds that the Ulster Protestants are a distinct Irish nation.According to S J Connolly's Oxford Companion to Irish History The...

, first advanced in 1904–05 (possibly in response to William O'Brien
William O'Brien
William O'Brien was an Irish nationalist, journalist, agrarian agitator, social revolutionary, politician, party leader, newspaper publisher, author and Member of Parliament in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland...

's advocacy of securing Home Rule through compromise with moderate Unionists). Several of his articles on the subject were reprinted in his 1907 essay collection, The Idea of a Nation (reprinted with additional material and an introduction by Patrick Maume, University College Dublin Press, 2002). Clery derived this unusual view for a nationalist from several motives, including a belief that arguments for Irish nationalists' right to self-determination could be used to justify Ulster Unionists' right to secede from Ireland, fear that it might be impossible to obtain Home Rule unless Ulster were excluded, and distaste for both Ulster Protestants and Ulster Catholics, whom he saw as deplorably anglicised. He remained a partitionist
In Ireland, partitionism refers to views on Irish politics, culture, geography or history that treat Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland as distinct. Partitionists may emphasise the perceived differences between the two jurisdictions and the people who live within them...

 for the rest of his life. Clery was not particularly successful as a barrister, but on the establishment of University College Dublin
University College Dublin
University College Dublin ) - formally known as University College Dublin - National University of Ireland, Dublin is the Republic of Ireland's largest, and Ireland's second largest, university, with over 1,300 faculty and 17,000 students...

 in 1909 he was appointed to the part-time post of Professor of the Law of Property.

After 1914 he moved from unenthusiastic support for John Redmond
John Redmond
John Edward Redmond was an Irish nationalist politician, barrister, MP in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party from 1900 to 1918...

's Irish Parliamentary Party
Irish Parliamentary Party
The Irish Parliamentary Party was formed in 1882 by Charles Stewart Parnell, the leader of the Nationalist Party, replacing the Home Rule League, as official parliamentary party for Irish nationalist Members of Parliament elected to the House of Commons at...

 to separatism. Before the 1916 Easter Rising
Easter Rising
The Easter Rising was an insurrection staged in Ireland during Easter Week, 1916. The Rising was mounted by Irish republicans with the aims of ending British rule in Ireland and establishing the Irish Republic at a time when the British Empire was heavily engaged in the First World War...

 he was an inactive member of the Irish Volunteers
Irish Volunteers
The Irish Volunteers was a military organisation established in 1913 by Irish nationalists. It was ostensibly formed in response to the formation of the Ulster Volunteers in 1912, and its declared primary aim was "to secure and maintain the rights and liberties common to the whole people of Ireland"...

, and he acted as defence counsel at the court-martial of Eoin MacNeill
Eoin MacNeill
Eoin MacNeill was an Irish scholar, nationalist, revolutionary and politician. MacNeill is regarded as the father of the modern study of early Irish medieval history. He was a co-founder of the Gaelic League, to preserve Irish language and culture, going on to establish the Irish Volunteers...

. During the 1918 general election he campaigned for Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin is a left wing, Irish republican political party in Ireland. The name is Irish for "ourselves" or "we ourselves", although it is frequently mistranslated as "ourselves alone". Originating in the Sinn Féin organisation founded in 1905 by Arthur Griffith, it took its current form in 1970...

. As one of the few barristers prepared to assist the Sinn Féin Court system (risking disbarment thereby) he was appointed to the Dáil Supreme Court
Dáil Courts
During the Irish War of Independence, the Dáil Courts were the judicial branch of government of the short-lived Irish Republic. They were formally established by a decree of the First Dáil Éireann on 29 June 1920, replacing more limited Arbitration Courts that had been authorised a year earlier...

. Clery opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty
Anglo-Irish Treaty
The Anglo-Irish Treaty , officially called the Articles of Agreement for a Treaty Between Great Britain and Ireland, was a treaty between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and representatives of the secessionist Irish Republic that concluded the Irish War of...

 because he believed that it would lead to re-Anglicisation and the eventual return of the Union. Clery was elected to Dáil Éireann
Dáil Éireann
Dáil Éireann is the lower house, but principal chamber, of the Oireachtas , which also includes the President of Ireland and Seanad Éireann . It is directly elected at least once in every five years under the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote...

 as an abstentionist independent
Independent (politician)
In politics, an independent or non-party politician is an individual not affiliated to any political party. Independents may hold a centrist viewpoint between those of major political parties, a viewpoint more extreme than any major party, or they may have a viewpoint based on issues that they do...

 Teachta Dála
Teachta Dála
A Teachta Dála , usually abbreviated as TD in English, is a member of Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Oireachtas . It is the equivalent of terms such as "Member of Parliament" or "deputy" used in other states. The official translation of the term is "Deputy to the Dáil", though a more literal...

 (TD) for the National University of Ireland
National University of Ireland (constituency)
National University of Ireland is a parliamentary constituency in Ireland, through which graduates of the National University of Ireland have elected members of various legislative bodies including currently Seanad Éireann.-Summary:...

 constituency at the June 1927 general election.

He did not take his seat and he did not contest the September 1927 general election since new legislation obliged candidates to pledge in advance that they would take their seat. Clery passed his last years in solitude as a melancholy and somewhat ascetic bachelor; his chief delight was in the company of his students, and the sports clubs of UCD were the principal legatees of his will. He was one of the lawyers who advised Éamon de Valera
Éamon de Valera
Éamon de Valera was one of the dominant political figures in twentieth century Ireland, serving as head of government of the Irish Free State and head of government and head of state of Ireland...

 that the Irish Free State
Irish Free State
The Irish Free State was the state established as a Dominion on 6 December 1922 under the Anglo-Irish Treaty, signed by the British government and Irish representatives exactly twelve months beforehand...

 was not legally obliged to pay the Land Annuities which had been agreed in the Anglo-Irish Treaty
Anglo-Irish Treaty
The Anglo-Irish Treaty , officially called the Articles of Agreement for a Treaty Between Great Britain and Ireland, was a treaty between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and representatives of the secessionist Irish Republic that concluded the Irish War of...

 of 1922.


Clery died in November 1932 from pneumonia contracted at a public meeting. In addition to The Idea of a nation, Clery published Dublin Essays (1920) and (as Arthur Synan) The Shadows of the King, a historical novel modeled on Thackeray's Esmonde.

Personal life

Clery was a close friend of Tom Kettle (who died serving on active duty in Europe during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

), with whom he founded a dining club, the "Cui Bono". Hugh Kennedy (later Chief Justice of the Irish Free State) was also a lifelong friend. The principal influence on Clery was the Irish Ireland editor D. P. Moran
D. P. Moran
David Patrick Moran , better known as simply D. P. Moran, was an Irish journalist, activist and cultural-political theorist, known as the principle advocate of a specifically Gaelic Catholic Irish nationalism during the early 20th century...

, to whose weekly paper, The Leader Clery became a frequent contributor. (Clery also wrote as "Chanel" for the University College paper at St. Stephen's, and as "Arthur Synan" for the New Ireland Review.)


  • Arthur Clery, The Idea of a Nation (UCD Press edition, 2002; edited by Patrick Maume)
  • Patrick Maume, "Nationalism and partition: the political thought of Arthur Clery", Irish Historical Studies November 1998, pp. 222–240
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