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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 9: 1944–1953 - Irreconcilable Differences: Financial Difficulties, the Holocaust and the Birth of Israel


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1944–1953 Irreconcilable Differences: Financial Difficulties, the Holocaust and the Birth of Israel

Even though Briscoe had survived as a Fianna Fáil TD, his electoral difficulties had included unsavoury insinuations alluding to the precarious state of his personal financial situation. Much of this could be ascribed to his revisionist engagement, Jabotinsky was notorious for making financial demands on his subordinates and the Briscoe Files in the Jabotinsky Institute are full of requests for an immediate £50, £100 or even £200 donation.1 This aspect of Briscoe’s Zionism certainly contributed to his money issues; however, when a 1944 G2 intelligence report is examined, it leads to the inescapable conclusion that there was a far more prosaic contributory factor. The report indicates that he had a considerable gambling problem.

During an interview between Briscoe and Mr T. W. Justice, Briscoe stated that he had lost £6,000 in the last five years, playing poker and racing. Mr Justice gathered from Briscoe’s conversation that he is not in a strong financial position at the moment.2

Briscoe’s admission is indicative of the depth of his debt; £6,000 was an extraordinary sum in 1944 and would translate to a present-day debt of more than £186,000. He had always enjoyed a flutter on the horses; this was widely known and accepted in an Irish political culture where casual gambling was commonplace.3 This was reinforced by a love of poker, and Briscoe...

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