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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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Chapter 3: 1922–1926 - The Irish Tragedy: Internecine Civil War, Anti-Semitism, Exile and Wilderness


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1922–1926 The Irish Tragedy: Internecine Civil War, Anti-Semitism, Exile and Wilderness

The Dáil recommendation to accept the Treaty would be put to the people in an election in June 1922; this would effectively amount to a national referendum where people would pass judgement on both pro- and anti-Treaty positions. The intervening six-month period would prove to be a crucial time for the republican movement as the former comrades in arms began to frequently engage in violent confrontations as both factions sought to gain an advantage.1 This scenario was replicated in Berlin where Briscoe tried to continue his arms mission; however, as he would almost immediately realize, this would now be a far more difficult proposition as the former comrades split into their respective factions.2 These disputes were not always defined by the Treaty split, and for the first time in Briscoe’s republican engagement, he began to encounter opposition tinged by a particular type of republican anti-Semitism.3 This manifested in an infamous Berlin encounter with Charles Bewley who had been appointed to the position of temporary Consul in October 1921.4 Bewley was as fervently pro-Treaty as Briscoe was anti-Treaty, so it was perhaps inevitable that the two men would clash; however, the incident had a much more unseemly ← 31 | 32 → aspect to it than the normal, if robust and at times violent dispute between former comrades.5

The relationship between the two men was not initially confrontational, and Briscoe...

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