Located in Parliament Street, between Essex and Dame Streets, south of the Liffey, Kavanagh’s is called in Ulysses “James Kavanagh’s winerooms” (10.992) and described by Don Gifford as “a gathering place for Dublin politicians and for those in search of political favors” (93). So it’s no surprise that the place makes its appearance in the most overtly political of all the Dubliners stories, “Ivy Day in the Committee Room.” In this story it’s mentioned as a place where Father Keon can often be found talking with Mr. Fanning. When mentioned in “Ivy Day,” Keon has just popped his head in the room, looking for Fanning. Not finding him, he quickly leaves, and the men in the Wicklow Street committee room begin to talk about him:
“–Tell me, John, said Mr O’Connor, lighting his cigarette with another pasteboard card.
–What is he exactly?
–Ask me an easier one, said Mr Henchy.
–Fanning and himself see to be very thick. They’re often in Kavanagh’s together. Is he a priest at all?
–‘Mmmyes, I believe so. …I think he’s what you call a black sheep. We haven’t many of them, thank God! but we have a few. …He’s an unfortunate man of some kind. …
–And how does he knock it out? asked Mr O’Connor.
–That’s another mystery.
–Is he attached to any chapel or church or institution or–
–No, said Mr Henchy. I think he’s travelling on his own account. …God forgive me, he added, I thought he was the dozen of stout.” (126-27)
During the discussion of Father Keon’s character, Henchy seems to have trouble nailing down any definite descriptions. His answers are filled with speculation and aposiopeses, echoing the dialogue surrounding Father Flynn, another problematized priest, in “The Sisters.” As they do with many other notable figures, the men in the committee room have trouble disparaging or criticizing Keon. Excepting Hynes, many of the characters take on the subtleties of political ambiguity when describing controversial figures. But more direct implications can be observed in the geographic allusions Joyce embeds in this particular passage.
As Gifford notes, Kavanagh’s is a political hotspot for making under-the-table deals. What indeed is Father Keon doing there? Here again, as in “The Sisters,” a priest is imbued with highly political overtones through a geographic reference. In “The Sisters,” the political implications resonate from the reference to St. Catherine’s, and in “Ivy Day,” it is Kavanagh’s. Furthermore, Fanning, the man Keon meets in Kavanagh’s appears in “Grace” as “the registration agent and mayor maker of the city, who was sitting immediately under the pulpit beside one of the newly elected councillors of the ward” (172). In fact, the presence of Fanning and other well known politicos and businessmen at the Gardiner Street Jesuit church makes Mr. Kernan “feel more at home” (173). The “mayor maker’s” appearance in the Jesuit church and Father Keon’s presence in the political pub emphasize Joyce’s perception of the highly political nature of the church and the religiously motivated nature of Irish politics.
Fanning also appears in Ulysses, also at Kavanagh’s, where he is directly identified as the subsheriff “Long John Fanning” (10.995-1030). In Ulysses, as in “Grace,” Fanning is in the company of people like Mr. Cunningham and Mr. Power.