Kelly, Michael (1898/9–1937), republican and soldier in Spain, was born in Ballinasloe, Co. Galway. A member of the IRA, he was active in the Republican Congress in London in the 1930s and was on the editorial committee of its newspaper, the Irish Front. In 1935 he was imprisoned in the Irish Free State for IRA membership. A staunch republican, Kelly equated the cause of the republican government in Spain with that of Ireland and, at the outbreak of the Spanish civil war, he answered the call made by Bill Gannon, chairman of the Communist Party of Ireland, for volunteers to fight in the war. In December 1936 a party of 200 Irish volunteers left for Spain under the command of Frank Ryan (qv); after training at Villaneuva de la Jara, they joined the XV (English-speaking) International Brigade. Known as the ‘Connolly column’ or ‘Connolly centuria’, they first saw action in December 1936 on the Córdoba front. In May 1937 Kelly organised a James Connolly (qv) commemoration ceremony and addressed his fellow Irish, British, and American volunteers in the trenches at Jarama. Noted for his bravery, he regularly volunteered for dangerous assignments. He was killed in action during the republican offensive on the Brunete front, 7 July 1937, aged 38; one of over sixty Irishmen who died serving with the international brigades in Spain.
Frank Ryan, The book of the 15th Brigade (Madrid, 1938); Tim Pat Coogan, The I.R.A. (1970), 85, 172; Michael O'Riordan, Connolly Column (1979); Sean Cronin, Frank Ryan: the search for the Republic (1980); Peter O'Connor, A soldier of liberty (1996); Uinseann MacEoin, The I.R.A. in the twilight years (1997); Robert A. Stradling, The Irish in the Spanish civil war, 1936–9 (1999)