A native of Valentia Island, John J. O’Kelly, also known as “Sceilg”, was a teacher and journalist, writing articles for the Irish People and the Freeman’s Journal, amongst other publications. He became involved in the Irish language movement in Dublin and was a co-founder of the radically nationalist Keating branch of the Gaelic League in 1901. He was also a founding member of Sinn Féin and, in 1911, became editor of the Catholic Bulletin. Following the Rising, O’Kelly deepened his involvement in the revitalised republican movement and was interned in February 1917. He was subsequently elected as a Sinn Féin representative for Louth in the December 1918 general election and was appointed as deputy speaker in the First Dáil in April 1919. He later served as minister of the national language and minister for education, whilst also succeeding Eoin MacNeill as President of the Gaelic League in August 1919. An opponent of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, O’Kelly travelled to America and Australia between 1922 and 1924 to raise support for the republican movement. Upon his return, he also opposed Éamon de Valera’s move to enter the Free State Dáil and, following the split in the party and the establishment of Fianna Fáil, he became the leader of Sinn Féin in 1926. He exited political life in the 1930s, but continued to write books, pamphlets, poems and articles espousing the republican viewpoint until his death in 1957.
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