Daly, John (1845–1916), Fenian, was born 18 October 1845 in the suburbs of Limerick city, third son of John Daly, foreman in a local timber yard, and Margaret Daly (née Hayes) of Fedamore. Educated at Moneywell national school and Limerick city CBS, he left school at the age of 13 and was apprenticed as a joiner in a local carpentry firm. At the age of 18 he was sworn into the IRB, unaware that his brothers and friends were already members of that organisation, and held IRB meetings regularly at his parent's home. These ceased in late 1865 when the house was raided by the RIC. He was tried for treason-felony on 18 February 1867 but was released on sureties of good behaviour. On 5 March 1867 he assisted in the IRB attack on the police barracks at Kilmallock, Co. Limerick. To escape arrest, he fled via England to America, where he worked as a labourer in New York city and Carmansville, Connecticut. In the summer of 1869, on learning of the attempted reorganisation of the IRB, he returned to Ireland. By the following year he was well known in Limerick as an active promoter of the Amnesty Association and an outspoken opponent of the home rule movement. Secretly, he was also the county centre of the Limerick IRB.
In 1872 he was called to Dublin by John Nolan (qv) and appointed travelling organiser of the IRB in Ulster. To his surprise, he was elected by the Ulster rank and file to represent them on the IRB supreme council. He attended his first meeting of the council that Christmas, where he befriended Charles Kickham (qv). In early 1873 he was introduced by Patrick Egan (qv) to Charles Stewart Parnell (qv), who arranged a private meeting to discuss whether the IRB could be persuaded to support a new radical Irish parliamentary party if one were established, but Daly was dismissive of the suggestion. In March 1875 Daly assisted in the Tipperary election campaign of John Mitchel (qv), who sought to attract publicity for the separatist cause by refusing to sit at Westminster on his election. During the mid 1870s, as chief travelling organiser of the IRB, Daly was willing to disrupt public nationalist rallies frequently, seeking to put pressure on Isaac Butt (qv) and his party to adopt a separatist position. On one such occasion in Limerick (April 1876), Daly was arrested for causing political disturbances and spent three weeks in prison. Thereafter he performed IRB organisational work mostly in Connacht, Scotland, and northern England, where he combated successfully the efforts of John O'Connor Power (qv) to win the local IRB organisation over to the Home Rule Confederation of Great Britain.
In 1878, with the help of Mark Ryan (qv), Daly acquired work as chief attendant at a retirement home near Brighton, a position he held until 1882. In August 1881 he travelled to Chicago as an IRB delegate to help ensure that Clan na Gael continued to support an arms subsidisation scheme. Returning to Brighton, he soon became an arms agent, assisting John O'Connor (qv) in importing many arms for the IRB. In August 1882 he visited Dublin to deliver the graveside oration at the funeral of Kickham, the IRB president. The following month he left for New York to settle a dispute with Clan na Gael. By August 1883 he had returned to England and was performing IRB organisational work in Britain and Ulster. In September 1883 he settled in Birmingham, residing with J. F. Egan (qv).
Owing to its success in infiltrating the Clan in America and the IRB in England, the Crime Special Branch knew of Daly's importance in the revolutionary movement and attempted to incriminate him, using an agent provocateur. Several efforts failed. In early April 1884, however, Daly agreed to carry a sealed package to London for an IRB leader in Liverpool who was working for the British secret service. On 11 April, while changing trains at Wolverhampton, he was arrested and explosives were found in his possession. In July he was found guilty of treason-felony and sentenced to penal servitude for life. He was imprisoned in Chatham and subsequently in Portland prison, where he and fellow Fenians J. F. Egan and Thomas Clarke (qv) formed a close-knit group. After the deathbed confession of a Birmingham police officer that Daly was framed, an Irish Political Prisoners Committee was established in Limerick (1889) to demand his release. This body failed to attract the attention of the Irish parliamentary party until after the ‘Parnell split’. With the encouragement of the IRB and the Dublin trades council, the Parnellite party agreed to found the Irish National Amnesty Association on 25 August 1892. Thereafter John Redmond (qv) and F. J. Allan (qv) spoke at several political rallies, demanding that Daly's case be reopened, which the home office categorically refused to do. Amid rumours of prison mistreatment, a parliamentary commission was established in 1895 and the prison authorities were censured for – inadvertently – poisoning Daly with arsenic. He was returned unopposed for Limerick on a nominally Parnellite ticket in the general election of July 1895, though the candidacy was declared ineligible. In early 1896 he went on hunger strike, a fact that encouraged the government to discharge him on 16 August 1896. Large public rallies were held for him in Kingstown (Dún Laoghaire), and Limerick city, the latter being attended by approximately 20,000 people.
During 1897–8 Daly campaigned vigorously for the amnesty cause in Ireland and America, and was appointed president of the Limerick branch of the 1798 centenary committee. From testimonials offered to him, in the summer of 1898 he was able to establish a successful bakery at 26 William St., Limerick, which attracted much publicity because it was the only establishment in the country at that time that used Gaelic lettering on its shop front. In February 1899 he was elected senior alderman and mayor of Limerick city as a labour candidate, being reelected mayor twice (1900, 1901). As mayor he removed the royal coat of arms from the town hall and awarded the freedom of the city to Maud Gonne (qv), Paul Kruger, president of the Transvaal, and Thomas Clarke (who in 1901 married his niece Kathleen (qv)). Increasingly outspoken in his opposition to parliamentary politics, Daly attracted a good deal of controversy during the spring of 1901, when he called for armed rebellion and denounced the IPP in the strongest terms during a well publicised American tour. This ensured that he lost most of his influence in Limerick municipal politics on his return to Ireland.
Although probably not a member of the supreme council, for most of the 1900s Daly remained in the counsel of the IRB leadership, but was bedridden with ill health by the end of the decade. Not least owing to his close friendship with Thomas Clarke, numerous IRB activists such as Bulmer Hobson (qv), Ernest Blythe (qv), and Seán Mac Diarmada (qv), as well as Patrick Pearse (qv), often visited him in his home in Limerick. On the formation of the IRB newspaper Irish Freedom (1910) he helped to fund the paper's activities and contributed a series of recollections to its columns. During the 1916 rising his home was raided by British forces while his nephew, Edward Daly (qv), served as a commandant in the republican forces in Dublin. John Daly died 30 June 1916 at his home, 15 Barrington St., Limerick; he never married. A tall, energetic, and gregarious man, he was a simple but often effective propagandist for the separatist cause.