Kelly, Thomas (1868–1942), politician and book dealer, was born 13 September 1868 in Dublin, son of Isaac Kelly, waiter, and Sarah Kelly (née Pitts), of Townsend St., Dublin. Educated intermittently at CBS Westland Row (1874–86), he became interested in nationalist politics during the 1880s, and attended the funeral of Parnell (qv), at which he acted as a guard. In 1897 he became honorary secretary of the amnesty association for fenian prisoners and visited Tom Clarke (qv) in Portland prison.
First elected to Dublin city council in 1899, as a nominee of the York St. workman's club, of which he was honorary secretary, he was elected alderman in 1903. As he had lived in a one-room tenement as a child, one of Kelly's principal concerns was to demolish tenements and provide adequate housing. This led to the establishment of the housing committee of the city council (1910), on which he served for many years as chairman. In recognition of his advocacy of housing issues, a complex of corporation flats in Charlemont St. was named ‘Tom Kelly House’ in his memory, and a nearby road ‘Tom Kelly Road’. Popularly known as ‘Honest Tom’, he was also a supporter of Dublin street traders. As a member of the city council (1899–1923, 1932–42) he served on numerous committees; during his tenure as chairman of the public libraries committee there was a substantial increase in the number of public libraries in the city. In 1915 he was defeated for the office of mayor by James Gallagher. Also in 1915 he opposed the vote of the city council to remove Kuno Meyer (qv) from the roll of freemen of the city. Elected lord mayor of Dublin in January 1920, while in prison, he was unable to assume the office due to ill-health; as he was not inaugurated as mayor, he never officially held the office. As a member of the city council he had supported the suggestion of Hugh Lane (qv) to establish a municipal art gallery, and later became chairman of the Lane bequest committee.
He became honorary treasurer of Sinn Féin on its formation in 1905, served on the resident executive of the party (1906–9) and as a vice-president (1910–12), became Sinn Féin leader in Dublin city council after the defeat of Walter Cole (qv) in 1907, and wrote articles on the history of Dublin for the Sinn Féin newspapers. On 20 April 1916 he read the ‘Castle document’ to a meeting of the city council (the document was forged by the IRB military council to give the impression that Dublin castle was about to suppress the Irish Volunteers). Although not involved in fighting during the rising, he was arrested afterwards but was released after a short time. In 1918 he became honorary secretary of the Sinn Féin party along with Harry Boland (qv), and at the 1918 general election was elected Sinn Féin MP for Dublin St Stephen's Green ward, securing reelection for Dublin South in 1921 and 1922, before retiring the following year. He was one of the founders of the Aonach, a Christmas fair promoting the sale of Irish manufacture.
Kelly's imprisonment in December 1919 led to an outcry and he was released in February 1920. Because of the adverse affect on his health of prison, where he suffered a mental breakdown, he was forced to withdraw from public life for some years; he was unable to attend or vote in the dáil debate on the Anglo–Irish treaty, but indicated his support for it in a letter to the speaker. In 1923 he resigned from Dublin city council. He was given a titular appointment as oireachtas librarian in 1921, but poor health also prevented him from assuming the office. When his health recovered he returned to politics, and was elected as a city councillor in 1932 and Fianna Fáil TD for Dublin South in 1933, both of which positions he held till his death in 1942. His switch of political allegiance to Fianna Fáil was a protest at what he saw as the Cumann na nGaedheal government's abandonment of the policies of Arthur Griffith (qv).
Kelly had a lifelong interest in the history of Dublin, and in 1934 was elected as first president of the Old Dublin Society. In addition to his political career, he worked as a book and picture dealer in Dublin and in later life opened a small antiquarian bookshop in Trinity St. He married (1894) Annie Glynn; they had three sons and six daughters. He lived all his life in Dublin, where his principal residences were 6 Cumberland St., 1 Bloomfield Cottages, 23 Longwood Ave., and 37 St Teresa's Terrace, the last three addresses all on the South Circular Road. He died 20 April 1942 in Dublin, leaving an estate of £1,091. A portrait by Gertrude O'Flynn, commissioned by the Old Dublin Society, is in the civic museum, 58 South William St, Dublin, and one by Sarah Cecilia Harrison (qv) is in the Hugh Lane municipal gallery of art.