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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 5: 1932–1934 - Zionist Awakening: The Nazi Machtergreifung and Jewish Persecution

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CHAPTER 5

1932–1934 Zionist Awakening: The Nazi Machtergreifung and Jewish Persecution

Although the rise of Hitler had jolted Briscoe out of a dislocation from global Jewish concerns, he was forced to refocus on parochial concerns by the forthcoming Irish election scheduled for February 1932. He was determined to not merely hold his own seat, but ensure Fianna Fáil win the election by tirelessly extolling the benefits it would bestow on the poverty stricken and neglected working-class, telling his constituents that ‘Fianna Fáil would tackle the housing problem’ and provide accommodation at affordable rents’.1

After a bitter campaign that was grounded in an extraordinary level of personal vitriol between the candidates, the General Election was held on 16 February 1932. It was a momentous one for Fianna Fáil, as it underscored the meteoric rise of the organization, which secured 44 per cent of first-preference votes which secured an extra fifteen seats on its performance in the 1927 election.2 Despite its phenomenal electoral success, the party was still five seats short of the magical figure of seventy-seven that would have given it an overall majority. De Valera overcame this deficit by securing the support of a drastically reduced Labour Party, and Fianna Fáil was for the first time in its short history, set to govern.3 On 9 March 1932 Briscoe, who had retained his seat in Dublin South with a slight increase ← 67 | 68 → in his personal vote...

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