Connolly, Roderic James (‘Roddy’) (1901–80), socialist, trade unionist, and politician, was born 11 February 1901 at 54 Pimlico, Dublin, only son and sixth among seven children of James Connolly (qv), native of Edinburgh, Scotland, the socialist republican revolutionary, and Lillie Connolly (née Reynolds), native of Carnew, Co. Wicklow. His father's career brought the family to Troy, New York, USA (1904–5), Newark, New Jersey, USA (1905–10), Dublin (1910–11), and Belfast (from 1911); Roddy attended schools in these several locations. A lieutenant in the Irish Citizen Army (ICA) boys’ corps, he was ADC to his father and Patrick Pearse (qv) in the General Post Office during the 1916 rising. On the third day he was dispatched by his father (probably for his safety) with messages and instructions to assist William O'Brien (qv) (1881–1968) in Liberty Hall for the duration of hostilities. Interned when Liberty Hall was raided after the rising, he gave the military authorities a false name and was released after eight days with other prisoners under 16. Returning to the family home in Belfast, he resumed his education there with the Christian Brothers.
Connolly joined the Socialist Party of Ireland (SPI) on its re-formation (March 1917). While working in Glasgow at Parkhead forge and Brown's shipyard in 1918, he associated with such leading British Marxists as Willie Gallacher, and also became a captain in the Glasgow branch of the Irish Volunteers. Back in Ireland by September 1919, he aligned with the SPI's ‘Bolshevik’ wing, seeking affiliation with the Communist International (Comintern) rather than the revived Second (‘Berne’) International of socialist parties. Attending the Comintern's second world congress in Moscow (July 1920), he sat on the special commission, chaired by Lenin, on the national and colonial question, which instructed communists in colonial countries to oppose imperialism by forming tactical alliances with nationalist revolutionary movements. During this and subsequent Moscow visits he discussed the Irish situation with the top Bolshevik leadership, including Lenin, Zinoviev, Trotsky, and Kamenev, and received Comintern sanction for an Irish communist party based on the SPI's left wing. After returning from the third Comintern congress (1921), he led a take-over of the SPI executive and expulsion of such moderates as O'Brien and Cathal O'Shannon (qv) by a leftist group that included his sister, Nora Connolly O'Brien (qv), and Sean McLouglin, a young Easter Week veteran and socialist activist. Rejecting Connolly's position that first they must build a larger support base, the tiny body immediately reconstituted itself as the Communist Party of Ireland (CPI) and obtained Comintern affiliation. Connolly became party secretary and co-editor, with Liam O'Flaherty (qv), of the party organ, Workers’ Republic.
In a manifesto of 17 December 1921 the CPI became the first organisation publicly to reject the Anglo–Irish treaty signed eleven days earlier. After the treaty's ratification by Dáil Éireann (January 1922), the party urged civil war in resistance, and supported the republican ticket in the June general election. On the outbreak of hostilities Connolly led a small CPI–ICA contingent that occupied Findlater's grocery store, one of four Dublin city centre positions seized by the communists, and all evacuated after several days under heavy Free State attack. Thereafter the CPI refrained from active military engagement. In a meeting (late July) with IRA chief-of-staff Liam Lynch (qv) in Fermoy, Co. Cork, Connolly proposed the establishment of a republican civilian government in Cork city and adoption of a radical social programme, but Lynch took no action on either point. The social programme, drafted by Connolly and Comintern agent Michael Borodin, called for state ownership of heavy industry, transport, and banks, and redistribution of estate and large ranch lands. Published in Workers’ Republic (12 August), it influenced Liam Mellows (qv), who advocated its adoption in notes smuggled from Mountjoy jail to the republican leadership. In concentrating on appeals to republican leaders to adopt radical social policies, Connolly virtually ignored the ongoing militant industrial agitation, involving strikes and seizures of lands and workplaces, regarding their motivation as reformist not revolutionary, and adjudging the CPI too feeble to influence them. Upbraided for this policy by the Comintern executive during the fourth world congress (November–December 1922) – which instructed communist parties in colonial countries to perform the dual tasks of organising for class struggle and supporting radical nationalism – he publicly disowned his own earlier strategy on his return to Dublin (and urged republicans to concede military defeat and embrace constitutional politics), but failed to prevent his removal from office at the CPI's first congress (January 1923). In October 1923, the Comintern, wary of syndicalist tendencies within the CPI's new leadership, intervened and briefly restored Connolly to power, before ordering (December) the dissolution of the CPI and enrolment of its members into the Irish Worker League (IWL), recently founded by James Larkin (qv).
Convinced that Larkin's caprice and cult of personality were hindering progress toward reconstitution of a fully accredited communist party, in May 1926 Connolly helped organise the Workers’ Party of Ireland (WPI), whose high-profile membership included Nora Connolly O'Brien, Maud Gonne MacBride (qv), Jack White (qv), and Charlotte Despard (qv). As party president and editor of its organ, Irish Hammer and Plough, he sought to recruit republicans disillusioned by the recent split of what became Fianna Fáil from Sinn Féin, and to supplant Larkin's organisation as the Comintern's Irish section. When Moscow rejected the WPI's application and ordered its members to rejoin the IWL (February 1927), a split ensued, Connolly and most other officers leaving the party in obedience to the directive. By 1928 he broke with both Larkin and the Comintern by joining the Irish Labour party (after rejecting overtures from Fianna Fáil), and was soon elected to its national executive. Settling in Bray, Co. Wicklow (where from the early 1940s he lived on Milward Terrace, Meath Road and latterly at 127 Ardmore Park), he taught in a secondary technical school, and represented vocational teachers on Bray trades council, of which he became chairman.
He joined Michael Price (qv), Frank Ryan (qv), and George Gilmore (qv) – all recently expelled from the IRA for launching the Republican Congress – in organising a new Irish Citizen Army (April 1934). Serving on the Congress organising bureau, he recruited support among trade unionists, but failed to secure affiliation from the Irish Trade Union Congress. At the Republican Congress in Rathmines (28–9 September 1934), he spoke fervently in support of the resolution for a new political party in pursuit of a workers’ republic, in his excitement on the rostrum whipping off coat, tie, and waistcoat. When the contrary resolution for a united republican front engaged in radical social agitation won a narrow victory and the congress split, he joined the walk-out, but soon was attempting to reunite the two factions. At the Labour party conference in October 1934, he introduced a resolution deploring left-wing divisions and calling for united action against fascism and imperialism, but was heavily defeated as communist-inspired. At the 1936 party conference he and Price (who had followed him into the party), secured an amendment to the party constitution stating the objective of a workers’ republic, subsequently deleted by the 1939 conference owing to a concerted campaign by the catholic hierarchy and the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation.
Connolly was twice Labour TD for Louth (1943–4, 1948–51). He attributed his first election to a substantial defection of republican voters from Fianna Fáil objecting to coercive security legislation introduced during the 1939–45 emergency. In 1948, elected despite a red scare highlighting his past communist activities, he was instrumental in events leading to formation of the first inter-party government. During the 1950s he was defeated in several dáil elections in Louth and Dublin South Central, owing in part to his residence outside both constituencies. Moving steadily to the party centre, and defending the labour establishment against left-wing criticism, at the 1970 Cork special conference he compared coalition with Fine Gael to his father's 1916 alliance with Pearse. Serving as both party president and chairman of its administrative council (1971–8), he spearheaded the purge of a leftist faction, the Socialist Labour Alliance (1971), and spoke for the 1973 Fine Gael presidential candidate, Thomas Francis O'Higgins (qv) (1916–2003). Representing Labour in Seanad Éireann (1973–7), he supported the coalition government's Northern Ireland policy and coercive legislation, including a ban on commemoration of the sixtieth anniversary of the Easter rising.
Connolly married first (1921) Jessica Maidment, a socialist activist in England and chartered accountant, who from 1928 worked for Russian Oil Products in Dublin; she died from blood poisoning arising from an operation (1930). He was survived by his second wife, Peggy (married 1937), sons, and daughters. His recreations included chess and bridge; highly adept at both, he learned the former from Seán Mac Diarmada (qv) as prisoners after the Easter rising, and was international bridge correspondent for the Irish Independent. He died 16 December 1980 in hospital in Dún Laoghaire.