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Artist of the Revolution Ernest Kavanagh (1884-1916) Curry, James

ISBN: 9781856359481

Prior to his death on the front steps of Dublin's Liberty Hall during the Easter Rising, Ernest Kavanagh, an employee of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union, had established himself as a political cartoonist. Using the initials E.K., he regularly contributed illustrations to Irish labour, nationalist and suffrage newspapers during the course of the previous four years.

These cartoons saw him champion the rights of Ireland's working class, depict William Martin Murphy and the Dublin Metropolitan Police as murderous monsters during the 1913 Dublin Lockout, attack John Redmond for his recruitment of Irish soldiers following the outbreak of World War One, and lend his support to the Irish suffragette movement in their effort to secure the vote for the women of Ireland.

This collection of original Kavanagh cartoons provides us with a fascinating pictorial record of an Ireland filled with protest and social unrest during the Dublin Lockout, First World War, and lead-up to the 1916 Easter Rising.





  • Abbreviations
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • The Labour Cartoons
  • The Anti-Recruitment and Nationalist Cartoons
  • The Suffrage Cartoons
  • Appendix 1 Cartoons by other Artists
  • Appendix 2 Letter by Ernest Kavanagh published in The Irish Worker (9 May 1914)
  • Appendix 3 Tribute poems to her brother by Maeve Cavanagh
  • Bibliography
  • Index


On the morning of 25 April 1916, Ernest Kavanagh was shot dead on the front steps of Liberty Hall, the headquarters of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union (ITGWU) where he was employed as a clerk. One of several hundred civilians to be killed during the Easter Rising, Kavanagh was thirty-two years old at the time of his death.

Attempts by Kavanagh's family to secure the opening of an inquiry into his killing predictably ended in failure. The British government, when questioned on the matter at Westminster in the months afterwards, repeatedly refused to launch an investigation into his death. On 3 July Irish MP Laurence Ginnell pressed Prime Minister Herbert Asquith on the need for a public inquiry into the shooting of non-combatant civilians by the military in Dublin during the Easter Rising, listing Kavanagh's name among the Eden Quay victims who had been killed while going about their peaceful pursuits at the time. Asquith replied that there was no plan to launch any inquiry since his government had not received any information about the casualties in Eden Quay, whom, he assumed, had perished during the bombardment of Liberty Hall, a rebel stronghold.

When the House of Commons resumed the following week Ginnell continued his efforts to secure justice for the Eden Quay victims, asking Asquith if the fact that the area comprises Liberty Hall was enough to deprive their relatives of the right of inquiry which they would otherwise have? The prime minister responded with a declaration that 'such information as I have received does not lead me to think any inquiry is called for in this matter'. When challenged by Ginnell on these words, Asquith added that certainly one, if not two of the Eden Quay casualties had been shot by the rebels.

Arthur Lynch was another Irish MP who campaigned for justice on Ernest Kavanagh's behalf. On 3 July Lynch specifically highlighted Kavanagh's death as worthy of a government inquiry:

This young man, though he had taken no part whatever in the Rising, was shot while alone, unarmed, and defenceless on the steps of Liberty Hall, under conditions which gave no ground for supposing that he was a combatant.



You can watch James talking about Ernest Kavanagh on this RTÉ documentary by clicking the link and skipping to 23.00 mins.


Here is another clip of James talking about the cartoonist for Century Ireland on RTÉ


ISBN 9781856359481

  • Artist of the Revolution Ernest Kavanagh (1884-1916)