Judging W.T. Cosgrave

Judging W.T. Cosgrave

Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Royal Irish Academy, Prism
Pages: 340
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  • Book Info
    Judging W.T. Cosgrave
    Book Description:

    W. T. Cosgrave has been neglected in comparison with other prominent twentieth century Irish leaders. This biography, examines his career as local politician, rebel, minister, head of government for nearly ten years, and opposition leader. In particular it assesses his role as a state-builder and a key figure in the Irish democratic tradition.

    eISBN: 978-1-908996-61-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xi)
    (pp. 1-23)

    THE beginnings were prosaic. There were no celebrations, no bands played, and no crowds sang in the streets. The Irish Free State, the end product of the Irish revolution, was inaugurated in a subdued and businesslike manner. On 6 December 1922 members of the Irish parliament took an oath of fidelity to King George V, as was required by the treaty with Britain that had been signed exactly a year earlier, and they elected a head of government. The new ‘president of the executive council’, W.T. Cosgrave, informed Governor-General Tim Healy of his election by the Dáil and he received...

  5. 2. BECOMING A POLITICIAN, 1880-1913
    (pp. 25-47)

    W. T. Cosgrave was a Dubliner who lived for almost 40 years close to the old medieval heart of the city. He was always proud of Dublin and he studied its history, buildings and people.¹ But like most of the capital’s inhabitants his roots lay in the countryside. His maternal family, the Nixons, came from Prosperous in north Co. Kildare. Bridget Nixon was the seventh of eight children; as a girl she and her sisters went to the United States, but she soon returned to Ireland, where she met and married Thomas Cosgrave. His ancestors came originally from Co. Wexford,...

    (pp. 49-99)

    COSGRAVE remained active in the corporation after the outbreak of the First World War, but he also followed a widespread pattern by engaging in paramilitary activities, by marching, drilling and preparing for combat.

    Like most Irish nationalists he was dismayed by the apparent success of the opposition to home rule, manifest in the fact that a unionist private army was able to rule in Ulster with the acquiescence of the state.¹ He played a prominent role in a public meeting at the Rotunda in Dublin in April 1914 that was convened as a protest against the threat of partition, and...

  7. 4. DEFENDING THE TREATY, 1921-3
    (pp. 101-161)

    AFTER almost eight weeks of negotiations the delegates returned to Dublin at the beginning of December and brought with them a draft treaty proposed by the British. The full cabinet of seven members debated it at length. Cosgrave remarked shortly afterwards that towards the end of this meeting he had informed his colleagues he could not take the oath of allegiance to the king contained in the draft. The extensive minutes do not record his intervention, but they make it clear that the cabinet’s decision to reject the British version of the oath of allegiance was unanimous.¹ (Some weeks later,...

    (pp. 163-241)

    EVEN while the civil war was in progress Cosgrave and his colleagues prepared for a peaceful future, and they carried out ‘normal’ activities, such as deciding where the new parliament should meet. Eventually they chose Leinster House in preference to the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham. (Tim Healy, the governor-general, would have preferred his own residence, formerly the Vice-Regal Lodge, subsequently Áras an Uachtaráin, but then known popularly as ‘Uncle Tim’s Cabin’.¹) The government struggled to collect taxes, and it dealt severely with a postal strike; pickets were arrested and the army intimidated strikers with armoured cars and rifle fire.² It...

    (pp. 243-297)

    IN THE election campaign of May–June 1927 the government outlined its plans for the future, flaunted its achievements and ridiculed its opponents. It emphasised its road improvement programme and the Shannon hydro-electric scheme—the project to develop an electricity-generating station on the lower reaches of the River Shannon at Ardnacrusha, Co. Clare, on which work had begun in 1925. Cosgrave claimed that Cumann na nGaedheal had chosen honesty over popularity, and with excessive optimism he assured an audience that the days of political patronage and jobbery were over.¹ He denounced de Valera, criticising his record at the time of...

  10. 7. LEADING THE OPPOSITION, 1932-44
    (pp. 299-341)

    THE British had hoped that Cumann na nGaedheal would win the 1932 election, and after the change of government in Dublin they waited impatiently for its return to power. There should be ‘no disloyalty to Mr. Cosgrave’.¹ They were anxious to avoid taking steps that might weaken him and consolidate de Valera’s position. Cosgrave played a balancing act. On the one hand he sent emissaries to London with the message that Britain should not capitulate in its dispute with the new Irish administration.² Some members of Fianna Fáil accused the opposition of aiding the enemy. Seán Lemass claimed that Cumann...

  11. 8. THE ELDER STATESMAN, 1944-65
    (pp. 343-363)

    IN January 1944 Cosgrave retired from the leadership of his party and from public life. Towards the end of the previous year he had told Bishop Fogarty of his intentions, and by late October rumours had begun to circulate in Dublin. He soon informed his senior colleagues.¹The Leadercommented that there was no public expectation of his retirement, yet it caused no surprise.² According to one account his colleagues regarded him more as a friend and a counsellor than as a leader.³ This in itself would have been sufficient reason to resign.

    He departed at a low point in...

  12. Endnotes
    (pp. 365-401)
  13. Picture credits
    (pp. 402-404)
  14. Index
    (pp. 405-412)