- IE ITMA P00049
Art O'Brien was born in London to a prosperous and established family, his father John Francis O’Brien being a native of Cork. He studied civil and electrical engineering and after working abroad returned to London in c. 1899. Late-Victorian London was the home of a variety of Irish cultural revivalist organisations such as the Southwark Irish Literary Club (founded 1883), the Irish Literary Society (1892), the Irish Texts Society (1896) and the Gaelic League of London (1896). Art O’Brien joined the Gaelic League of London in 1899, and gaelicised his name to Art Ó Briain… ‘thenceforth becoming a regular attendant at the classes and other gatherings’.
Art O’Brien was to play a substantial role in nationalist politics following the outbreak of the First World War as a member of the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Republican Brotherhood in London, and in founding the Irish Self-Determination League of Great Britain (1920–21). His political career was however marred by financial controversy and he removed himself from political life until 1933, but remained President of the Gaelic League of London until 1935. Under Sean T. O’Kelly he was appointed Irish Minister to France and Belgium 1935–1938. He died in Dublin in 1949.