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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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This biography makes the case that Robert Briscoe, the Irish state’s only Jewish TD for nearly four decades (1927–1965), was one of the most important Irish politicians of the twentieth century, as well as being one of the most undervalued and under-researched. To support this argument, the book will primarily focus on Briscoe’s political evolution from a youthful Sinn Féin activist in the Irish War of Independence, to a senior Fianna Fáil representative in the early 1950s. This chronological methodology will illustrate how Briscoe evolved from a Sinn Féin revolutionary to become a member of Michael Collins’s personal staff and an IRA gun-runner in Weimar Berlin, before becoming a founding member of Fianna Fáil (Soldiers of Destiny) and valued political confidant of Ėamon de Valera. If this were not impressive enough, the next stage of the book examines how Briscoe through tragic circumstance in the 1930s became an active member of the New Zionist Organisation (Revisionists) and senior aide to Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the organization’s charismatic leader, in a desperate attempt to save a remnant of Europe’s Jews from Hitler’s murderous onslaught.1

However, despite his immense contribution to revolutionary Ireland, and perhaps in part because of his association with radical Zionism, his patriotism and loyalty was oftentimes questioned by compatriots in an ← 1 | 2 → overwhelmingly Catholic nationalist parliament.2 The foundation for this mistrust was the dominant Catholic dogma of the era, which depicted Jews as deicidists, and imparted in its obedient flock...

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