Sinn Fein councillor, 1916 rebel:
attended first Sinn Fein convention 1905.
Sinn Fein councillor on
Dublin Corporation from 1909 through most of the period to 1922.
See him at home
(return in Irish, he is "Liam T. Ua Cosgair").
Irish Volunteers 1913.
under Eamonn Ceannt
at the South Dublin Union.
Afterwards he was
sentenced to death.
Commuted to penal servitude for life.
Interned in Frongoch, Wales.
Released under general amnesty Jan 1917.
Sinn Fein MP and TD, Member of First Dail, War of Independence leader:
elected as Sinn Fein MP for Kilkenny city
in by-election, 10 Aug 1917.
A poster says:
"VOTE FOR COSGRAVE - A FELON OF OUR LAND".
Elected TD for Sinn Fein
in Dec 1918 general election
in Kilkenny North,
James O'Mara won in Kilkenny South.
Treasurer of Sinn Fein.
Member of the First Dail.
Could not attend first meeting in Jan 1919 because he was in prison.
at the Dail's first meeting on 21 Jan 1919,
"Liam Mac Cosgair"
"fé ghlas ag Gallaibh"
("imprisoned by the foreign enemy").
He was released in 1919.
War of Independence
W.T. was Minister for Local Government 1919-21
in the underground government,
with the job of
organising non-cooperation with the British authorities
and establishing an alternative system.
mar June 1919 to Louisa Flanagan [born 28th Aug 1882].
He moved 1919 to
Beechpark, Templeogue, Co.Dublin.
Although on the run, he did much to undermine the existing institutions of local government,
particularly after Sinn Fein swept the 1920 council elections.
supported the Anglo-Irish Treaty, Dec 1921.
Louisa appears in a story in
There was a plan by
Cumann na mBan
members to protest the Treaty
by raising the Union Jack over the
building housing the Treaty debates
to denote the betrayal that was taking place.
They went to large shops looking for a Union Jack,
"But Mrs. Cosgrave .. happened to be in the exclusive shop of
[on Grafton St]
"and was told of what was happening.
She of course immediately reported the plot."
Treaty was passed Jan 1922.
The nationalists split.
re-elected TD for (pro-Treaty) Sinn Fein,
general election, mid-June 1922.
started end-June 1922.
First Prime Minister of Ireland ("President") 1922-32:
After the deaths of both
Arthur Griffith and
W.T. became head of the pro-Treaty side.
When the constitution of the Irish Free State was
enacted Oct 1922, he became "President of the Executive Council"
or head of government.
He was the
first prime minister of Ireland ("President of the Executive Council"),
covering the governments of
During the Civil War of 1922-23,
he and his Free State government
took a ruthless stand against the anti-Treaty forces.
Nov 1922 - May 1923,
far more than the British executed in the War of Independence.
Anyone bearing arms on the anti-Treaty side was liable for a military trial and execution.
hero of the Howth gun-running,
and (without trial)
and Rory O'Connor
(ignoring even the pleas of the
Archbishop of Dublin,
who spent hours with W.T., trying to persuade him
to stop the executions).
was attacked and burnt down by the anti-Treaty side
Minister for Finance 1922-23.
The pro-treaty government party was re-named
Cumann na nGaedheal Apr 1923.
W.T.'s government won, the anti-Treaty side gave up, and the
Civil War ended May 1923.
W.T. was Cumann na nGaedheal / Fine Gael TD 1923-44.
re-elected TD for
general election, Aug 1923,
for Cumann na nGaedheal.
Minister for Defence 1924.
He dealt with threatened mutiny 1924
by some old IRA officers in
Free State Army,
who planned to force the government to establish a Republic.
The officers backed down.
Knight of the Grand Cross of the
Order of Pius IX, 1925.
and supporter of
Legion of Mary
(founded by Frank Duff 1921).
TD for Carlow-Kilkenny
TD for Cork city
made the first Irish state visit to America in 1928.
He was asked in 1930 by the
co-founder of the Irish Labour Party,
to grant asylum to
widely regarded as a
W.T. Cosgrave's legacy:
Not everyone will agree on W.T.'s legacy
(or the legacy of any political figure),
but here are the general arguments made for and against.
The main thing held against W.T. would probably be the executions:
As head of the Free State government in the
he was ruthless in what he saw as defense of the state
against his former republican comrades.
By many he was
never forgiven for the execution without trial of
The hard line on law and order and against republicans continued
after the Civil War ended May 1923.
On the other hand, a case can be made that W.T. was one of the greatest Irish leaders
and the real founder of the state.
The arguments would be as follows:
He founded a real democracy.
Violent revolutions normally lead to some new form of tyranny.
Not in Ireland's case.
W.T. founded a true parliamentary democracy,
avoiding the dangers of military rule, fascism, communism,
or anything other than normal parliamentary democracy.
In the darkest days of WW2,
Ireland was one of only a handful of democracies left in the world.
only about 10 countries out of 200 in the world
have been democracies as long as Ireland.
He gave up power when he lost the election.
In this view,
Ireland was truly defined as a democracy in 1932.
When the republicans, who
only a couple of years before had opposed the very existence of the state with violence,
finally won a fair election,
Cosgrave did, like a true democrat, peacefully
surrender power - even though many Free Staters at the time
were strongly opposed to surrendering power to de Valera.
He founded a real independent country.
Despite the fears
about what the Treaty meant at the time,
under Cosgrave the Treaty really did mean effective independence
for southern Ireland.
"by the time he was defeated by
Eamon de Valera
in the 1932 election, he had established a secure parliamentary democracy
and had achieved in dominion status
a cordial and almost complete independence from the UK".
He was more modern than de Valera.
In its ethos, his state was more modern and inclusive
than the more narrow Catholic state later established
by de Valera.
He appointed a broad range of scholars and Anglo-Irish
to the Senate.
The 1922 Constitution
(later replaced by de Valera's more Catholic, sectarian,
In economics he was interested in prosperity
while de Valera was interested in revenge and ideology.
with the UK
would not have happened under Cosgrave's government.
Leader of Opposition 1932-44.
lost power to the formerly anti-Treaty side Fianna Fail
in general election Feb 1932.
led Cumann na nGaedheal in opposition after 1932.
Both sides flirted with non-democracy in 1932-34.
On the anti-Treaty side,
now that Fianna Fail were in power,
the IRA began to disrupt meetings of any opposition,
with apparent government approval.
On the pro-Treaty side,
Cumann na nGaedheal had links with
Army Comrades Association
which was formed Feb 1932
as an anti-IRA, anti-communist group
to protect the opposition.
adopted symbols of then-fashionable European fascism.
were not a serious fascist movement
(with racial beliefs etc.)
though membership was restricted to Christians,
and they did express support for aspects of European fascism.
Blueshirts re-named the National Guard, July 1933.
Cumann na nGaedheal was
re-named Fine Gael
after merger with Blueshirts
But Fine Gael was dominated by the normal democratic party Cumann na nGaedheal,
and the Blueshirts were finished by the end of 1934.
W.T. did support
Spanish Civil War
as did the remnant Blueshirts.
For W.T. (and other Catholic democrats in Ireland who supported Franco)
this was about supporting the Catholic church
communists who were
burning churches and killing thousands of clergy,
rather than about supporting non-democracy per se.
link them to
the Blueshirts and fascism.
However the people in Ireland who actually supported Nazi Germany in WW2
were the IRA.
Fine Gael were in fact the most
party in Ireland during WW2.
W.T.'s deputy leader
wanted Ireland to join Britain in the war effort against Nazi Germany.
(W.T. himself supported neutrality.)
Prime Minister of Ireland (Taoiseach) 1973-77,
Liam Michael Goban Cosgrave,
born 13 Apr 1920,
"Michael" after grandfather,
"Goban" after W.T.'s step-brother Frank "Goban" Burke,
who was killed in the 1916 Rising.
The pro-Treaty group, outside the Mansion House, Dublin, in 1922.
Front row includes a line of
These are the Treaty supporters only, not all Dail members.
(Note De Valera is not there.)
This is after the split
of Jan 1922
and before Aug 1922 (when Griffith and Collins died).