Seán MacBride

BookSeán MacBride

Seán MacBride

A Republican Life, 1904-1946

2014

April 3rd, 2014

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This book critically examines the republican career of one of Ireland’s more controversial political figures, Seán MacBride (1904-1988), focusing on his subversive activities prior to his reinvention as a constitutional politician. MacBride, a Nobel and Lenin prize-winning humanitarian, was a youthful participant in the Irish Revolution of 1916-1923. He was an active member of the Dublin Brigade of the Irish Republican Army during the War of Independence, and found himself on the losing side of the 1922-23 Civil War. Rising through the ranks of the depleted and demoralised post-revolutionary republican movement, MacBride occupied a leadership position in the Irish Republican Army for fifteen years, bridging the difficult formative years of the Irish Free State to the ascent of de Valera and Fianna Fáil. Leaving behind an active part in the republican movement in 1938, MacBride moved into legal circles, carving out a successful career at the Irish Bar through the years of the Emergency, while maintaining links with both the IRA the German legation in Dublin. As well as providing the first scholarly assessment of MacBride’s political career within the Irish republican movement, this book offers wider reflections on the transition from violent republicanism to constitutional politics. The book also analyses internal tensions and strategic shifts within the Irish republican community in the post-revolutionary period, in particular the oscillations between politics and militarism, and considers the political, ideological and moral challenges that the Second World War presented to Irish political culture.

This book critically examines the republican career of one of Ireland’s more controversial political figures, Seán MacBride (1904–88), focusing on his subversive activities prior to his reinvention as a constitutional politician. MacBride, a Nobel and Lenin Prize-winning humanitarian, was a youthful participant in the Irish Revolution of 1916–23. He was an active member of the Dublin Brigade of the Irish Republican Army during the War of Independence, and found himself on the losing side of the 1922–23 Civil War. Rising through the ranks of the depleted and demoralised post-revolutionary republican movement, MacBride occupied a leadership position in the IRA for fifteen years, bridging the difficult formative years of the Irish Free State to the ascent of de Valera and Fianna Fáil. Leaving behind an active part in the republican movement in 1938, MacBride moved into legal circles, carving out a successful career at the Irish Bar through the years of the Emergency, while maintaining links with both the IRA and the German legation in Dublin. As well as providing the first scholarly assessment of MacBride’s political career within the Irish republican movement, this book offers wider reflections on the transition from violent republicanism to constitutional politics. The book also analyses internal tensions and strategic shifts within the Irish republican community in the post-revolutionary period, in particular the oscillations between politics and militarism, and considers the political, ideological and moral challenges that the Second World War presented to Irish political culture.

Reviews

'An extremely interesting biographical study, written with a light and sensitive hand, which skilfully paints a credible portrait of a complex and elusive character.'
Eunan O’Halpin, Trinity College Dublin

'[An] ... elegantly written and penetrating study of MacBride’s early career... Nic Dháibhéid’s book charts [MacBride's] life up to the formation of Clann na Poblachta, in 1946, tracing with a fine, forensic touch his precocious involvement in the republican struggle... What emerges is distinctly new.'
Roy Foster, Irish Times

'A welcome addition to the literature on twentieth-century Ireland in general and MacBride in particular. It makes a significant contribution to our understanding of his early years. The book is also essential reading for anyone interested in the revolutionary period and the IRA's relationship with the new state after independence.'

Ciara Meehan, Irish Literary Supplement

'This book focuses on his fragmented childhood when, as a teenage boy, he saw his mother imprisoned and had his first battles with authority. Nic Dhábhéid’s book not only throws fascinating light on MacBride’s formative years, but also on the bitter internal struggles of the IRA, leading to the torture of its alcoholic chief of staff, Stephen Hayes, and the brutal murder of Wexford man Michael Devereux.'
Sunday Business Post

'Nic Dhaibheid’s impressive and important new study now stands as the essential work on MacBride’s equally fascinating early years.'
Journal of British Studies, Vol. 51, No. 4

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About The Author

Dr Caoimhe Nic Dháibhéid is Lecturer in Modern History at the University of Sheffield. From 2010-1012 she was Rutherford Research Fellow at Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge.