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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Members of the Fifth Dáil - Arthur Clery

Arthur Edward Clery (1879 – November 1932) was an Irish politician and university professor.

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 his relative Charles Dawson (baker, former MP and Lord Mayor of Dublin). His cousin William Dawson (who used the pen-name "Avis") became his closest friend and associate. Clery was educated at the Catholic University School, Leeson Street (where he acquired the confirmation name "Chanel" in honour of the Marist martyr Peter Chanel - Clery frequently used "Chanel" as a pseudonym), Clongowes Wood College and University College in Stephen's Green. He was a university contemporary of James Joyce. They debated the suitability of Ibsen as a literary model for Irish writers in the Literary and Historical Society. ("Whelan, the college orator" in Stephen Hero is a hostile portrait of Clery). Clery later told the Clongowes Union that Joyce was really a product of Belvedere.

Clery's principal themes included the difficulties of Catholic graduates seeking professional employment, dramatic criticism (he hailed Lady Gregory's play Kincora as the Abbey Theatre's first undoubted masterpiece but was repulsed by the works of John Millington Synge), 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, 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, first advanced in 1904–05 (possibly in response to William O'Brien's advocacy of securing Home Rule through compromise with moderate Unionists). Several of his articles on the subject are reprinted in his 1907 essay collection The idea of a nation (1907, as "Chanel"; reprinted with additional material and an introduction by Patrick Maume, University College Dublin Press, 2002). Clery derived this view, very unusual for a nationalist, from several motives. These included recognition that all the 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 for the rest of his life. Clery was not particularly successful as a barrister, but on the establishment of University College Dublin 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's Irish Parliamentary Party to separatism. Before the 1916 Easter Rising, he was an inactive member of the Irish Volunteers, and he acted as defence counsel at the court-martial of Eoin MacNeill. During the 1918 general election he campaigned for Sinn Féin. 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. Clery opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty because he believed that it would lead to inexorable re-anglicisation and the eventual return of the Union. He described the Oath of Allegiance, with its pledge to the King, as "the Devil's Sacrament". (Clery was a pious Catholic of somewhat morbid tendency, and often employed theological language in political controversy.) After the suppression of the Dáil Supreme Court, Clery was sent to the Vatican as a Republican envoy to try to get the Pope to curb the pro-Free State pronouncements of the Irish bishops. Clery later refused to accept a judicial pension (on which he nevertheless had to pay tax) and as an ex-judge did not practice before inferior courts; this caused a serious drop in his income. Although his political views were unusual among Leader contributors (Moran and most of his circle supported the Treaty) he was respected for his principles and continued to write for the Leader. In the aftermath of World War I and the Treaty debacle, Clery developed an increasing political pessimism; he came to believe that parliamentary democracy had never been anything more than a swindle by "Masonic" elites and advocated authoritarian government based on Catholic social thought.

Clery was elected to Dáil Éireann as an abstentionist independent Teachta Dála (TD) for the National University of Ireland 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 that the Irish Free State was not legally obliged to pay the Land Annuities. He 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.

Clery was a close friend of Tom Kettle, with whom he founded an influential 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, to whose weekly paper the Leader Clery became a frequent contributor. (He also wrote as "Chanel" for the University College paper St. Stephen's, for the New Ireland Review as "Arthur Synan" (Synan may have been his mother's maiden name) and for Studies under his own name.)

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