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Thomas Power O'Connor MP




Thomas Power O'Connor
5 October 1848 – 18 November 1929
Thomas Power O'Connor was born in Athlone in 1848, known as T. P. O'Connor and occasionally as Tay Pay (mimicking his own pronunciation of the initials T. P.). He was a journalist or the ‘Saunders' Newsletter’ in Dublin an Irish nationalist political figure, and a member of parliament (MP) in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland for nearly fifty years.






T P O'Connor was born in Athlone, County Westmeath, on 5th October 1848. He was the eldest son of Thomas O'Connor, an Athlone shopkeeper, and his wife Teresa Power, the daughter of a non-commissioned officer in the Connaught Rangers. He was educated at the College of the Immaculate Conception in Athlone, and Queen's College Galway, where he won scholarships in history and modern languages and built up a reputation as an orator, serving as auditor of the college's Literary and Debating Society. He entered journalism as a junior reporter on Saunders' Newsletter, a Dublin journal, in 1867. In 1870, he moved to London, and was appointed a sub-editor on the Daily Telegraph, principally on account of the utility of his mastery of French and German in reportage of the Franco-Prussian War. He later became London correspondent for the New York Herald. In 1885, O'Connor married Elizabeth Paschal, a daughter of a Judge of the Supreme Court of Texas.


Scotland Road 1860

T P O'Connor was elected Member of Parliament for Galway Borough in the 1880 general election, as a representative of Charles Stewart Parnell's Home Rule League. At the next general election in 1885, he was returned both for Galway and for the Liverpool Scotland constituencies, (Scotland Road) which had a large Irish population.; he chose to sit for Liverpool.  By the second half of the 19th Century the Vauxhall/Scotland Road area was one of overcrowding, with streets filled with thick smoke and foul vapours, houses and courts squeezed in amongst industrial premises. The corporation had been demolishing unsanitary property since the 1860s and as an exemplary provision of working class housing had built St Martin's Cottages in 1869, the first council houses in England. T P O’Connor would represent this area and remain as the only Irish Nationalist MP in Great Britain. He retained his seat long after Ireland secured independence in 1921. His seat only became vacant on his death in 1929, when it was taken up by David Logan. Logan was heavily involved in the Irish Nationalist movement, and had represented the party on Liverpool City Council. By the time of his 1929 election he, however, joined the Labour Party and therefore left his mentor O’Connor his position in the history books as the only Irish Nationalist MP in BritainThe Liverpool Scotland Borough constituency existed between 1885–1974 and was replaced by the Liverpool Scotland Exchange ward.

From 1905 he belonged to the central leadership of the United Irish League. During much of his time in parliament, he wrote a nightly sketch of proceedings there for the Pall Mall Gazette. He became "Father of the House of Commons", with unbroken service of 49 years 215 days. The Irish Nationalist Party ceased to exist effectively after the Sinn Féin landslide of 1918, and thereafter O'Connor effectively sat as an independent.


"T P O'Connor Bust" © P Ingerson
The Bust of journalist and politician T. P. O'Connor in Fleet Street, London
The inscription reads, 

"His pen could lay bare the bones of a book or the soul of a statesman in a few vivid lines."

In 1887 O Connor founded and edited the radical newspaper, The Star. He was appointed the first President of the Board of Film Censors in 1917, and was appointed to the Privy Council by the first Labour government in 1924. He was also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Journalists, the world's oldest journalists' organisation. It continues to honour him by having a T.P. O'Connor charity fund.




O'Connor authored a range of books, including Lord Beaconsfield – A Biography (1879); The Parnell Movement (1886); Gladstone's House of Commons; Napoleon; The Phantom Millions; and Memoirs of an Old Parliamentarian (1929). He died in London on 18 November 1929 and is buried at Kensal Green Cemetery in north-west London.




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Sources

Liverpool Central Library
Bain News Service, 
U S Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs
T P O'Connor Bust" by P Ingerson, Creative Commons


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