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With an olive branch and a shillelagh: the political career of Senator Paddy Lynch (1867-1944)

Cusack, Danny (2002) With an olive branch and a shillelagh: the political career of Senator Paddy Lynch (1867-1944). PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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As a loyal Empire man and ardent conscriptionist, Irish born Senator Paddy Lynch swam against the prevailing Irish Catholic Labor political current. He was one of those MP's who followed Prime Minister W.M. Hughes out of the Federal Labor caucus in November 1916, serving out the rest of his political career in the Nationalist ranks. On the face of things, he represents something of a contradiction.

A close examination of Lynch's youth in Ireland, his early years in Australia and his subsequent parliamentary career helps us to resolve this apparent paradox. It also enables us to build up a picture of Lynch the man and to explain his political odyssey. He emerges as representative of that early generation of conservative Laborites (notably J.C. Watson, W.G. Spence and George Pearce) who, once they had achieved their immediate goals of reform, saw their subsequent role as defending the prevailing social order.

Like many of these men, Lynch's commitment to the labour movement's principles of solidarity and collective endeavour co-existed with a desire for material self advancement. More fundamentally, when Lynch accumulated property and was eventually able to take up the occupation which he had known in Ireland, farming, his evolving class interest inevitably occasioned a change in political outlook. Lynch is shown to have been an essentially conservative Meath farmer whose early involvement in the labour movement in Australia can be largely explained as a temporary phase consequent on emigration.

A single-minded and robust politician, Lynch was able to reconcile first his Irish and then his Australian nationalist loyalties with the cause of the Empire as the best guarantee of Australia's future security and advancement. He both represented and reinforced the more conservative Irish Catholic political climate which prevailed in Western Australia, compared to the more populous eastern states. The relationship of the Catholic Irish to the early labour movement in Australia was more complex and problematical than orthodox thinking has allowed. As someone who straddled both political camps, Lynch encapsulated many of the inherent ambiguities of the immigrant Irish. A study of his career allows us to gain a deeper insight into the complexities of the Irish-Australian experience.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Inquiry
Supervisor(s): Reece, Robert
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