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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 4: 1927–1931 - Republican Renaissance: Fianna Fáil and de Valera, the Voice of an Anti-Treaty Underclass

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CHAPTER 4

1927–1931 Republican Renaissance: Fianna Fáil and de Valera, the Voice of an Anti-Treaty Underclass

Although Briscoe was now deemed to be a suitable Fianna Fáil constituency candidate, the new party still had a number of obstacles to surmount if it was to engage in the political process. Firstly and most importantly was the need to circumnavigate the oath of allegiance to the British monarch, an imposition from the detested 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty. As long as Fianna Fáil was tied to the Sinn Féin abstentionist policy, de Valera understood that Fianna Fáil would remain as a peripheral party ‘but without the purity of soul of Sinn Féin’.1 In order to achieve its objective, the party mounted a campaign to gain the necessary 75,000 signatures that would force a constitutional referendum on the retention or rejection of the oath.2 The party focused on highlighting the ‘evils of the oath’ in an attempt to force the issue; this strategy was highly effective and was reaching a climax prior to the June 1927 General Election.3 However, the decision on whether or not a referendum would occur was essentially taken out of de Valera’s hands by the brutal assassination of Kevin O’Higgins in August 1927.4 ← 53 | 54 →

As Minister for Justice, O’Higgins had been in the forefront of the Provisional Government’s attack on the anti-Treaty forces. He had overseen the execution of an estimated seventy Anti-Treaty...

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