Time to remember Griffith’s role in pursuit of Irish liberty

BRIAN MAYE

The Sinn Féin founder created the political philosophy that enabled the dream to be realised

ARTHUR GRIFFITH died suddenly 90 years ago tomorrow.

He was the man who founded Sinn Féin and led the Dáil delegation to London that signed the Anglo-Irish Treaty, the founding document of Irish independence. He contributed much to bringing about that independence but it would be probably true to say that in the Ireland of today he is largely forgotten. It was not always thus.

A small Dublin weekly paper called the Spark, edited by John Doyle under the pen-name Edward Dalton, conducted a poll in February 1915 based on the question: “Who is the Irish nationalist whom Dublin wishes most to honour?” Griffith was the first choice, followed by Eoin MacNeill and Alderman Tom Kelly, a longtime Sinn Féin representative on Dublin Corporation.

Dalton wrote: “The name Arthur Griffith has been chosen by a majority of readers of the Spark . . . What Ireland owes to Griffith, to his patriotism, to his self-sacrifice and to his ability and earnestness will one day be told. The man’s modesty prevents it being known to his contemporaries.”

Harry Boland declared to Dr Patrick McCartan: “Damn it, Paddy, hasn’t Griffith made us all!” Seán T O’Kelly wrote that “Griffith’s political philosophy, so eloquently taught, and his long years of toil and sacrifice, brought the present generation of Irishmen from their knees to their feet and rekindled in their hearts the almost extinct flame of liberty.”

It is not easy to do justice, in an article of this length, to the extent of Griffith’s contribution to the Irish independence movement from around 1900 to 1922. But there are three facets of that contribution to which particular attention should be drawn.

Firstly, what mattered most to Griffith was not political independence but economic independence, because he saw the former as useless without the latter. As a result, he devoted much of his writing as a journalist, editor and pamphleteer to making the case for Ireland’s economic self-sufficiency, which is summed up in the name of the movement with which his name will always be associated: Sinn Féin (Ourselves).

Read more from the Irish Times article by Brian Maye here

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