In a letter to her sister, Mary Kettle, Mrs Sheehy Skeffington stated that while she was still weak, this hunger strike was not as traumatic as those that she had undertaken on behalf of the women’s suffrage movement.
Sheehy Skeffington went on hunger strike last week after being arrested on Dublin’s Westmoreland Street. She was taken to the Bridewell and, later, to Holloway Jail in England. No charge was levelled against her and no reason was given for her imprisonment.
In the course of her incarceration, concerns were voiced for her health. As acknowledged by the Irish Independent, Mrs Sheehy Skeffington is known to be ‘a woman of most determined will’, but she was also known to be ‘afflicted by a weak heart’. This led to questions being asked of the British government as to whether they wanted to be held responsible for ‘another Ashe tragedy’, a reference to Thomas Ashe, who died after being force-fed while on hunger strike in September 1917.
On being released from Holloway, Sheehy Skeffington was informed that she must notify the authorities of any change to her address, to which she replied that she would not notify them of her movements. She is currently awaiting a reply to an application for a permit to return to Ireland.
As well as being a committed political activist, Mrs Sheehy Skeffington is the widow of Francis Sheehy Skeffington who was murdered in the midst of the unrest of Easter week 1916. Mrs Sheehy Skeffington’s sister, Mary, whose home was searched in the aftermath of Hanna’s arrest, has also experienced deep loss in recent years. Her husband, Tom Kettle, was killed in action on the western front in September of the same year.
Image | Hanna Sheehy Skeffington | National Museum of Ireland | Source | Century Ireland