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Saturday, 12 August 2017

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12‭ ‬August‭ ‬1922:‭ ‬The death of Arthur Griffith in Dublin on this day.‭ ‬He was the Leader of the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State.‭ ‬He was born in the city in‭ ‬1872‭ ‬and followed his father into the printing trade and from that developed an interest in Journalism.‭ ‬He was a strong Nationalist with a conservative streak.‭  ‬His interest in Irish nationalism was reflected in his membership of the Irish Republican Brotherhood‭ (‬IRB‭) ‬and the Gaelic League.‭ ‬He went out to South Africa in‭ ‬1896‭ ‬and spent a couple of years there where he witnessed the attempts of British Imperialism to dominate the Boer Republics.‭ ‬He returned home and‭ ‬in‭ ‬1900,‭ ‬he founded Cumann na nGaedheal,‭ ‬a cultural and education association aimed at the reversal of Anglicisation.

In‭ ‬1905‭ ‬he founded the Sinn Fein Party as an advanced Nationalist movement that wanted to see Ireland an Independent Country.‭ ‬He was inspired by the settlement reached between Austria and Hungary that resulted in separate political institutions under the Austrian Crown.‭ ‬He proposed that a similar arrangement would be a good solution for Britain and Ireland to follow.‭ ‬His Party was not a great success but not a failure either and it gathered under one banner different strands of Nationalist sentiment that felt that‭ ‘‬Home Rule‭’ ‬was not enough.

It was only in the aftermath of the Easter‭ ‬1916‭ ‬Rising,‭ ‬dubbed by the British‭ ‘‬The Sinn Fein Rebellion‭’ ‬that Griffith became a serious player in Revolutionary Politics.‭ ‬Sinn Fein soon mushroomed in size as more radical elements than he were drawn by default towards the Party.‭ ‬In the General Election of‭ ‬1918‭ ‬Sinn Fein swept the boards but when the‭ ‬Dáil met in‭ ‬1919‭ ‬it was Eamon de Valera who was elected the President and Arthur Griffith was made the Vice President‭! ‬Griffiths‭’ ‬role in the War for Independence was entirely political and he helped to undermine British rule by organising a shadow local government structure.‭ ‬This while patchy was a direct challenge to the Crown’s ability to enforce its own system upon the Irish and helped to contradict the notion that the Irish could not run their own affairs.‭

However it was only after the Truce of‭ ‬1921‭ ‬when De Valera chose him to lead the Peace Delegation to London to negotiate directly with the British Government that a rift began to appear.‭ ‬This was between the conflicting approaches to striking a deal with the British.‭ ‬Griffith was eventually persuaded to accept Dominion Status for the‭ ‬26‭ ‬Counties and convinced the other plenipotentiaries to sign‭ ‘‬the Treaty‭’ ‬as well.‭ ‬He saw it as the best deal that could be obtained from the British at that time.

But when he returned home it was clear that De Valera‭ & ‬a considerable number of his Party colleagues felt that the Delegation had overstepped the mark by not referring the Treaty back to Dublin for full Cabinet consideration before signing.‭  ‬After a mammoth series of debates aka the‭ ‘‬Treaty Debates‭’ ‬the Sinn Fein Party split and De Valera resigned the Presidency of the‭ ‬Dáil and led his followers out.‭ ‬

The remaining TDs decided to elect Griffith to lead the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State.‭ ‬While he now had a political position of some power Griffith was in many respects a figurehead and more dynamic and calculating members of his rump Party did a lot of the running of the new dispensation.‭ ‬The outbreak of the Civil War in June‭ ‬1922‭ ‬further weakened his hold and the strain of the past few months began to take its toll.‭  ‬Exhausted by his labours,‭ ‬he died of a brain haemorrhage in Dublin on the‭ ‬12‭ ‬August‭ ‬1922‭ ‬and was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery Dublin.