T P O’Connor

T P O'Connor in 1917
T P O’Connor in 1917

Born in County Westmeath, T.P. O’Connor was the only Irish ‘Home Rule’ MP to be elected to Parliament from an English constituency.  He represented the Scotland Division of Liverpool, which had a large Irish community, from 1885 until his death in 1929. In 1888 he created and launched The Star newspaper in London to fight for the thousands of homeless at a time when the Embankment was crowded with penniless down-and-outs. In 1888, in the districts of East London, Battersea and Deptford, 27 out of every 100 men were out of work. There was no welfare system and no local government apart from ecclesiastical vestries and the Metropolitan Board of Works.

The Star also campaigned for, and secured, the establishment of an elected London County Council. Its first edition sold a record print-run of 130,000 papers, all produced in one day from a basement in Stonecutter Street. The Star was a halfpenny evening paper and one of the first to use ‘New Journalism’ investigative practices to campaign for social improvements. O’Connor pledged to “do away with the hackneyed style of obsolete journalism” and said there would be no place in his paper for “the verbose and prolix articles” of other newspapers.

TP O'Connor bust
Thomas Power O’Connor (5 October 1848 – 18 November 1929), known as T. P. O’Connor. His bust by Francis William Doyle-Jones at the entrance to 78 Fleet Street.

O’Connor’s first editorial in The Star spoke for a spirit of journalism that endures into the present day. He wrote: “In our view, the effect of every policy must first be regarded from the standpoint of the workers of the Nation, and of the poorest and most helpless among them. The charwoman who lives in St Giles’, the seamstress who is sweated in Whitechapel, the labourer who stands begging for work outside the dockyard gates in St George’s-in-the-East. These are the persons by whose conditions we shall judge the policy of the different political parties, and as it relieves or injures or leaves unhelped their position shall the policy by us be praised or condemned, helped or resisted.” 

T.P. O’Connor was a Fellow of the Institute of Journalists and left a bequest which created a charity, established in 1940, in his name – The T P O’Connor Fund – that has benefited hundreds of journalists in the years since his death.