Memoirs of a revolutionary secretary published
Kathleen McKenna and the shorthand of history
Kathleen McKenna, centre, at work in Cadogan Gardens, London during the 1921 Treaty negotiations
The Irish contingent in Hans Place, London during the Treaty negotiations in 1921, including Kathleen McKenna, third right, seated in front of Arthur Griffith
Kathleen Napoli McKenna may never have fired a gun in anger but she played a significant role in the War of Independence and in the early years of the Free State. Now, 26 years after her death in Rome on March 22nd, 1988, at the age of 90, her daughter Teresa Napoli has brought out her mother’s memoirs of those revolutionary years, A Dail Girl’s Revolutionary Recollections.
McKenna was born in Oldcastle ,Co Meath, to a strongly nationalist family, whose circle of friends included Arthur Griffith,Douglas Hyde and the poet Brian O’Higgins. In 1919 she joined Sinn Féin and was given the task of typing and printing the Irish Bulletin, the new underground publicity organ envisaged by Arthur Griffith and the Ministry of Propaganda, then under the direction of Desmond FitzGerald.
In 1921 she went to London for the Treaty negotiations as secretary to Arthur Griffith, head of the Irish Delegation. She later served as private secretary to Desmond FitzGerald when he was minister for External Affairs. and later Kevin O’Higgins and William Cosgrave. In 1924 she was secretary to the Boundary Commission, and in 1926 she was one of the secretaries to the Irish Delegation attending the Imperial Conference in London.
She resigned in 1931 to marry Capt Vittorio Napoli of the Italian Royal Grenadier Guards, moving to Libya and Albania before settling in Rome. She was a regular contributor to the Irish Independent, the Irish Times and other Irish and international newspapers.