Harrington, Timothy Charles (1851/2–1910), newspaper editor and politician, was born 20 September 1851/2, at Castletownbere, Co. Cork, tenth son of Denis Harrington and his wife, Eileen (née O'Sullivan). Harrington was a native speaker of Irish; he took pride in his use of the language when organising the Land League in Kerry and the United Irish League in Connacht. He believed that the differences between Irish provincial dialects were exaggerated, and that it was relatively easy for speakers of one to make themselves understood elsewhere in Ireland. In later life he was a supporter of the Munster-orientated Keating branch of the Gaelic League. He was a lifelong teetotaller (though in his last years he managed the Phoenix brewery in Dublin). Harrington was educated at the local national school, where he worked as a pupil-teacher. In 1877 he moved to Tralee, where he taught English in the Dominican Holy Cross school; he was also a member of the local bicycle club and Tralee Liberal Registration Club.
Journalist and Land Leaguer, 1877–85
In 1877 he established the weekly Kerry Sentinel, a nationalist and pro-tenant weekly newspaper (which survived under the successive proprietorships of his brothers Edward (d. 1902) and Daniel until 1928). He also acted as special correspondent for the Freeman's Journal in 1879, producing widely publicised accounts of distress in Ballyferriter and western Kerry. He was an active spokesman for the Kerry Tenants’ Defence Association, which was incorporated into the national Land League after C. S. Parnell's (qv) visit to Tralee early in 1881, which Harrington organised. He became provincial organiser for the Land League in Munster, working closely with John Dillon (qv).
Late in 1881 Harrington, along with several local league activists, was put on trial for holding a Land League court; he was detained in Galway jail for twelve months but released in May 1882 under the Kilmainham treaty. In 1883 Parnell called Harrington to Dublin to act as joint secretary of the Land League with Thomas Brennan (qv) (who subsequently departed for America, leaving Harrington in charge). After the dissolution of the Land League and its replacement by the National League in 1882, Harrington became the principal secretary of the new organisation. In this role he covered the country with a network of tightly disciplined branches (1,513 by 1887), using his wide knowledge of the country and control of the central apparatus to ensure the organisation's loyalty to Parnell (not least by expelling potential dissidents and troublemakers).
In February 1883 Harrington was sentenced to two months’ imprisonment at Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, for intimidation: he had delivered a speech warning the farmers of the county that if they did not treat labourers fairly they would provoke the same sort of agitation that they themselves had directed against landlords. Harrington's imprisonment was marked by a period of solitary confinement on bread and water after he refused to perform ‘a duty the description of which is not permissible’ (probably cleaning latrines); Harrington believed this was intended to display him ‘menially and disgustingly employed’ for the amusement of some landlords who happened to be visiting the jail governor. During his imprisonment Harrington was elected MP for Co. Westmeath; his supporters took pleasure in pointing out that the electorate was dominated by the very farmers he was supposed to have intimidated. In 1885 he became MP for the newly created Harbour division of Dublin, a seat he held for the rest of his life.
MP and lawyer, 1885–90
As an MP, Harrington established a reputation for closely researched speeches and embarrassing leaks of official documents. For example, he supported claims that resident magistrates showed pro-landlord and pro-government bias by producing applications festooned with declarations of loyalty. The most prominent of the leaks for which he was responsible occurred in his campaign to clear the names of the executed Myles Joyce (qv) and four others convicted of the Maamtrasna murders of 1882. Harrington made public the prosecution brief, which suggested that evidence had been suppressed, and visited Connemara to interview witnesses – including a repentant prosecution witness – in which enterprise he was assisted by his knowledge of Irish. His pamphlet The Maamtrasna massacre: impeachment of the trials (1884) is generally, though not universally, accepted as correct. The friendship of John Stanislaus Joyce (qv) with Harrington (who once supplied his friend's son James (qv) with a reference) may have contributed to Joyce's lifelong fascination with the hapless Myles Joyce, condemned to death by a state apparatus whose language he did not understand.
Harrington was called to the Irish bar in 1887, and his work as a lawyer became his principal means of earning a living. He devised the strategy for the anti-landlord Plan of Campaign, whereby tenants demanded rent reductions and, if refused, paid the fair rent into a fund held by their own representatives. He was defence counsel in most of the prominent Plan trials, including those of William O'Brien (qv) and John Dillon at Mitchelstown in September 1887, and that of Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (qv) in October 1887 for holding a proclaimed meeting at Woodford. In January 1888 he was imprisoned for six weeks by a ‘coercion court’ of two resident magistrates (one of whom, Cecil Roche (d. 1902) was a frequent target of his criticisms) for publishing banned reports from branches of the National League in the Kerry Sentinel, of which he was still nominally co-proprietor. He later published A diary of coercion: being a list of the cases tried under the Criminal Law and Procedure Act (3 pts, 1888–90) covering the periods 1887 to March 1888, 17 March to 1 April 1888, and September 1888 to 1 January 1890. Harrington was one of Parnell's counsel on the commission of inquiry into accusations against Parnell and the National League published in The Times; his wide-ranging knowledge and research skills are said to have been of great assistance to Sir Charles Russell (qv) and H. H. Asquith in presenting their case. He was fined £500 for an article published in the Kerry Sentinel in 1888 criticising the commission, though he disclaimed responsibility for it.
In 1890 Harrington accompanied a delegation of MPs (including Dillon and O'Brien) on a fund-raising mission to America. When the Parnell ‘split’ occurred during their absence, Harrington sent a telegram of support in which he declared: ‘My heart is with you, though my head is against you.’ Harrington was the only member of the delegation, and – though Dublin was overwhelmingly Parnellite – the only MP for the city to support Parnell in 1890. This led the young Arthur Griffith (qv) to suggest, after by-election setbacks, that Harrington should resign his seat and allow Parnell to be elected for it, to show the continuing strength of popular Parnellism; in later life Griffith regularly denounced Harrington for not having accepted this proposal.
Harrington's support gave Parnell control over the Irish National League, forcing the anti-Parnellites to establish their own Irish National Federation. As controller of the league Harrington also became the guiding spirit of its weekly paper, United Ireland (after the expulsion of anti-Parnellite staff). His published criticism of clerical interference in politics led one irate priest to christen him ‘No-Pope Harrington’ and to describe two other Parnellites as his ‘cardinals’. United Ireland lost most of its predominantly rural readership because of the split, and its heavy losses (together with Harrington's growing family responsibilities) contributed to the financial problems that were to dog him for the rest of his life.
Despite Harrington's services to the Parnellite cause his organisational labours were eclipsed by the eloquence and charisma of John Redmond (qv), who succeeded to the leadership on Parnell's death. As the split receded in time Harrington became detached from the official Parnellite leadership, and after 1895 he was the first leading Parnellite to call for reunion. (The official position was that the anti-Parnellite leaders were permanently disqualified from calling themselves nationalists and should retire from public life.) Harrington, who retained control of the National League apparatus and the increasingly insolvent United Ireland, set about establishing an independent electoral base by getting elected to Dublin corporation for North Dock ward; Redmond's loyalists established their own organisation, the Independent Irish League. Harrington's increasingly close association with Dillon and O'Brien culminated in his support for the UIL, whose campaigns for land division attracted much support from rural Parnellites in Connacht and helped to force Redmond into reunion in 1900. Some party members are alleged to have favoured Harrington rather than Redmond as leader of the united party (supposedly in the hope that he would prove incapable of leadership and soon be replaced by an anti-Parnellite). Harrington, however, allied with Redmond in opposing the expulsion from the party of T. M. Healy (qv), who was seen as a counterweight to Dillon and O'Brien; at the 1900 party convention he was shouted down by O'Brien's supporters.
Lord mayor and conciliator, 1901–10
Harrington was elected lord mayor of Dublin in 1901 and held the position until 1903, an unprecedented length of service to that date. He restructured the corporation's administration in an attempt to reduce jobbery, and decasualised the paving department labour force. In this capacity Harrington hosted at the Mansion House the 1902 land conference (which produced the Wyndham Land Act), and acted simultaneously as one of four tenant representatives. The government attempted to capitalise on the goodwill produced by the act by organising a visit to Dublin by Edward VII in 1903; separatists pressurised the Irish party leadership to oppose a loyal address by Dublin corporation. A meeting in Dublin, at which Harrington and Redmond spoke, degenerated into a free fight when Maud Gonne (qv) publicly challenged them to state their position on the address question. (A version of this incident features in J. O. Hannay's (qv) novel Hyacinth.) Harrington came under suspicion of secretly favouring the address because of his increasingly close business and political relationship with Alderman W. F. Cotton (qv), leader of the pro-address faction. But in the event he voted against the address, and it was defeated. After his death it was revealed that he had rejected government offers of a baronetcy, a judicial position, or a colonial governorship in return for supporting the address. (It is also alleged that he had previously turned down an offer of honours if, as lord mayor of Dublin, he would attend the coronation of Edward VII.) Harrington also served on numerous local bodies, including the port and docks board, the technical instruction committee, and the board of Holles Street Hospital.
After 1903 Harrington remained sympathetic to William O'Brien's conciliationist policy, though he thought O'Brien had made a fatal mistake by resigning from the party rather than fighting from within. He suffered increasing isolation from Redmond and was removed from the governing body of the UIL in favour of Stephen Gwynn (qv). His legal career had been crippled by his political duties, and he privately expressed bitterness at the failure of former political allies to employ him in legal business. His Dublin electoral base was undermined by his political isolation and by the growing strength of Sinn Féin, which took his corporation seat in 1908. In the last two to three years of his life he suffered from heart disease. In 1909 he was appointed secretary to the Dublin old age pensions committee; he was also a director of the Artesian Mineral Water Company.
Harrington retained the party nomination for the Harbour constituency in January 1910, largely because of local divisions about who should succeed him and because an O'Brienite offer to pay his election expenses deterred rivals from going to the polls. Harrington decided that the finely balanced result of the general election meant that every nationalist vote would be required at Westminster. He therefore travelled to London, but shortly after attending the parliamentary party meeting on 23 February he suffered a stroke. After some days’ recuperation he was brought home to Dublin, but his condition deteriorated and he died 12 March 1910 at his home, 70 Harcourt Street. He was buried near the Parnell circle at Glasnevin cemetery.
In 1892 he had married Elizabeth O'Neill, with whom he had five children. His family were left in severe financial difficulties at his death; a subscription was raised for them, to which many of Harrington's political opponents contributed. (One son, Niall Charles Harrington (qv), subsequently served in the Free State army and wrote a memoir of his civil war experiences.)
Despite his importance to the Parnell machine and the survival of a large body of papers (in the NLI) Harrington has received little scholarly attention. Overshadowed by more flamboyant figures, and dying too late for incorporation in the Parnell myth and too soon to figure in the debacle of 1918, he remains (except for Thomas Sexton (qv)) the least wellknown of Parnell's lieutenants. ‘If Davitt was the father of the Land League, Tim Harrington was its nurse’ wrote the Kerry journalist T. B. Cronin (d. 1917), who suggested as Harrington's epitaph ‘He stood by Parnell’. Besides his own papers, the NLI also has Harrington's correspondence with Redmond. There are a few Harrington items in the William O'Brien papers (NLI and UCC).