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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 10: 1954–1969 - Epilogue: A Political and Personal Swansong


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1954–1969 Epilogue: A Political and Personal Swansong

In many respects, Briscoe’s partially successful representation on behalf of Jewish families in the spring of 1953 marked the end of his active engagement with the Jewish tragedy. He would of course always be more than a passive observer when it came to the welfare of the Jewish diaspora and the new the Israeli state, however, from now on, he would increasingly re-engage with the Fianna Fáil national project. This was primarily focused on an unrelenting personal devotion to Ėamon de Valera, who Briscoe believed without reservation had facilitated his immigration and Zionist endeavours. He understood that as a Jewish TD, it was difficult, if not impossible to achieve ministerial rank in twentieth-century Catholic nationalist Ireland. He never blamed de Valera for this and had always supported ‘The Chief’ in every political decision, even when he did not personally agree with it. This was evident in Briscoe’s speech to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of the founding of Fianna Fáil in 1951, he spoke almost lovingly about de Valera:

An organisation founded by the greatest of our people who emerged from the war against the British and our unfortunate Civil War. It is also a wonderful happy thing to be able to say that most of those who were prominent in the founding of this Organisation are still with us, with the same understanding and acceptance of the fundamentals and...

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