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Robert Briscoe

Sinn Féin Revolutionary, Fianna Fáil Nationalist and Revisionist Zionist

Kevin McCarthy

This biography reveals the full significance of Robert Briscoe’s influence within the contentious political culture of the early Irish state, as well as reinforcing his importance to the global Zionist rescue effort of the 1930s. Drawing on a wealth of previously unavailable archival material, the book charts Briscoe’s evolution from a fringe Sinn Féin activist in 1917 to a member of Michael Collins’s personal staff in 1921. It also analyses his agonizing decision to abandon Collins and support the anti-Treaty stance of his close friend and political hero, Éamon de Valera, before becoming a founding member of Fianna Fáil in 1926. Most importantly of all, the book investigates Briscoe’s evolving Jewish awareness, looking at his involvement in a traumatic immigration endeavour and also at his engagement with Ze’ev Jabotinsky and the New Zionist Organisation, under whose auspices he led political rescue missions to Poland, America and South Africa.
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My appreciation of the many wonderful archivists in the National Library of Ireland, the National Archives of Ireland, the Irish Military Archives and the National Archives of the United Kingdom at Kew cannot be overstated. I wish to include a special mention for Amira Stern, the head archivist at the Jabotinsky Institute in Tel Aviv. She facilitated my many demands with patience and courtesy, and guided me through the complex documentation that passed between Briscoe and Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the head of the New Zionist Organisation.

Having expressed my gratitude towards the scholarly community, I must state in the strongest possible terms that my research into Briscoe’s complex political metanarrative would never have progressed beyond the briefest of surveys, if it had not been for the extraordinary generosity of Mr Ben Briscoe and his lovely wife Carol. Ben granted me full and unrestricted access to a private family archive, which contained several hundred documents pertaining to his father’s Jewish immigration initiative in the 1930s and 1940s. In the meantime, his wife Carol, who does Trojan work in the wonderful but woefully under-resourced Jewish Museum in Dublin, guided me through its partially un-catalogued archives until I discovered several documents which proved beyond doubt that Briscoe had risen to the very highest echelons of the NZO. This gave me the background information I needed to justify a trip to Israel. I would therefore like to take this opportunity to express my deepest appreciation to Ben and Carol Briscoe.

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