Kenny, Joseph Edward (1845–1900), physician and MP, was born in Dublin, the son of Martin Matthew Kenny of Belmont Avenue, Donnybrook, manager of a lead mine in Palmerston, Co. Dublin. He was educated at the Catholic University's medical school in Cecilia St., Dublin, graduated in 1868, and became a licentiate of the RCSI and the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh in 1870. Appointed medical officer with the North Dublin Union, he was put in charge of the hospital's fever huts during the smallpox epidemic of 1872 and was commended for his conduct.
Active in politics, he was elected to the executive committee of the Land League in December 1880, subsequently serving as treasurer of the National League, the Mansion House Evicted Tenants Committee, and the Tenants Defence Association. A close friend and medical advisor to both C. S. Parnell (qv) and Michael Davitt (qv), he was arrested under the provisions of the Protection of Persons and Property Act on 24 October 1881 and imprisoned with Parnell in Kilmainham. On his arrest he was dismissed from the North Dublin Union. During his imprisonment he obtained permission to visit Davitt in Portland jail and also acted as doctor to Parnell and other imprisoned political colleagues. His medical reports on the health of John Dillon (qv), Michael Boyton and Andrew Kettle (qv) eventually led to their release. Despite Parnell's claim that his numerous ailments were invented ‘to give Dr Kenny an excuse for keeping me in the infirmary’ (O'Shea, 122), Kenny was genuinely concerned by Parnell's health. On his release in February 1882, he protested against his dismissal from the North Dublin Union on the grounds that he had not been convicted of any offence and had been merely detained as a suspect. The matter was raised in the commons and Gladstone was forced to admit that the chief secretary, William E. Forster (qv), had acted wrongly in ordering Kenny's dismissal. He was reinstated and also received a testimonial of £1,000. In September 1882 he was appointed consulting physician to St. Patrick's College, Maynooth.
Elected nationalist MP for South Cork (1885–92), he remained a strong supporter of Parnell when news of the O'Shea divorce case became public in November 1890. Over the next eleven months he often treated Parnell as a patient and assisted his political campaigning, petitioning members of the catholic hierarchy, including Archbishop William Walsh (qv), for their support. He was also a founder and director of the pro-Parnell Irish Independent (1890–1900). After Parnell's death in October 1891 he was asked to resign from Maynooth, as his recent political speeches were seen as being ‘grossly offensive to the clergy’ (Corish, 235). In 1892 he was appointed coroner to the city of Dublin (1892–1900) and became Parnellite MP for College Green, defeating T. D. Sullivan (qv). Retiring from politics in 1896 to concentrate on his thriving medical practice, he contracted septicaemia after a dental extraction and died 9 April 1900 at his Dublin home, 15 Rutland (Parnell) Square. He was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.
His wife, Elizabeth ‘Lizzie’ Kenny, was a member of the Ladies Land League. She often entertained his political colleagues and organised meetings in their house in Rutland Square. Some of Kenny's correspondence is in the NLI's Harrington collection.