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Arthur Griffith's anti-English tirade against Erskine Childers


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I was just reading some of the historical Dáil Debates, particularly this one in relation to the election of Arthur Griffiths as President in January 1922 after de Valera's resignation. What struck me was the way in which Griffith unilaterally coarsened the tone of the debate with a vulgar attack on Erskine Childers (who was tring to raise a point of order). I was quite flabbergasted at the cynical opportunism of it (particularly as Childers was so committed to Ireland and what he perceived to be its cause).

I have highlighted the exchange in bold. What would Eoghan Harris, Ruth Dudley-Edwards, or Kevin Myers make of it, I wonder? I always knew that there was a particular animosity displayed towards Childers by the Free State side, but did comments like this contribute towards Childers' unjustifiable killing? What do the good citizens of P.ie think?

MR. ERSKINE CHILDERS: I wish to raise a few points in connection with the statement made by the President.

MR. PIARAS BEASLAI: I must protest. There is nothing before the House. Deputy Childers is out of order.
MR. ERSKINE CHILDERS: The President has made a very general statement of policy. All I wish to do is to ask him to be more explicit in a few particulars which are of great importance. I do not raise the points in the least obstructive sense, or with any obstructive motives. It is simply in order that we may know more exactly where we stand. Mr. Griffith as President has taken over an important office, to my view in a double capacity—one as Chief Executive Officer of Dáil Eireann, and the other, which he will soon presumably hold, is Chief of the Provisional Government. It is simply a few points arising out of that curious and ambiguous situation which I wish to raise. I would have raised them on the previous motion but the closure was moved and I was unable to speak. My friend, Mr. Gavan Duffy, said all the questions put to Mr. Griffith had been satisfactorily answered, and that we can just go ahead under Mr. Griffith in his dual capacity. I do not think that is so, and further explanation is needed. One of the questions asked him he certainly did not answer at all. That question was: “Will the Provisional Government function under the statutory powers conferred [416] by the Partition Act?” I think I am right in saying he made no answer to that question at all. Has Dáil Eireann——
MR. D. MACCARTHY: I rise to a point of order. Yesterday you allowed a motion to be debated for two-and-a-half hours, and then ruled it out of order. Let us know where we are. What is before the House? If this debate is going to go on for two or three hours we may then be told it is not in order, and there is nothing before the House.
THE SPEAKER: On a strict point of order there is no motion before us.
MR. P. HUGHES: I move that we proceed with the next business.
MR. E.J. DUGGAN: I have pleasure in seconding that motion.
MR. ERSKINE CHILDERS: But this is a——
PRESIDENT A. GRIFFITH: Before this proceeds any further, I want to say that President de Valera made a statement—a generous statement—and I replied. Now (striking the table) I will not reply to any Englishman in this Dáil (applause).

MR. P. O'KEEFE: It is nearly time we had that.


PRESIDENT A. GRIFFITH: It is about time.


MR. ERSKINE CHILDERS: My nationality is a matter for myself and for the constituents that sent me here.

PRESIDENT A. GRIFFITH: Your constituents did not know what your nationality was.

MR. ERSKINE CHILDERS: They have known me from my boyhood days —since I was about half a dozen years of age.

PRESIDENT A. GRIFFITH: I will not reply to any damned Englishman in this Assembly.
PROFESSOR STOCKLEY: Are all these proceedings in order?
THE SPEAKER: The whole proceedings at present are out of order.
MR. E.J. DUGGAN: It has been proposed and seconded that the next business in the Orders of the Day be proceeded with.
THE SPEAKER: I have ruled——
MR. ERSKINE CHILDERS: I hardly think you will say this is out of order (cries of “Chair! Chair!”). It is hardly out of order to say something to an interjection like that made by the President. I am not going to defend my nationality, but I would be delighted to show the President privately that I am not, in the true sense of the word, an Englishman, as he knows. He banged the table. If he had banged the table before Lloyd George in the way he banged it here, things might have been different (cries of “Order!” and applause).


PRESIDENT A. GRIFFITH: I banged the table before your countryman, Mr. Lloyd George (applause).

MADAME MARKIEVICZ: And Griffith is a Welsh name.
Dil ireann - Volume 3 - 10 January, 1922 - PRESIDENT'S STATEMENT OF POLICY
 

Roberto Jordan

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I was just reading some of the historical Dáil Debates, particularly this one in relation to the election of Arthur Griffiths as President in January 1922 after de Valera's resignation. What struck me was the way in which Griffith unilaterally coarsened the tone of the debate with a vulgar attack on Erskine Childers (who was tring to raise a point of order). I was quite flabbergasted at the cynical opportunism of it (particularly as Childers was so committed to Ireland and what he perceived to be its cause).

I have highlighted the exchange in bold. What would Eoghan Harris, Ruth Dudley-Edwards, or Kevin Myers make of it, I wonder? I always knew that there was a particular animosity displayed towards Childers by the Free State side, but did comments like this contribute towards Childers' unjustifiable killing? What do the good citizens of P.ie think?



Dil ireann - Volume 3 - 10 January, 1922 - PRESIDENT'S STATEMENT OF POLICY
Both Griffith and Childers were unusual relative to the more convetional backgrounds of SF/ IRA leadership .

The whole elevationof SF & therefore griffith to the head of nationalism is something that has been well thread over I guess in discussions of '16 and its aftermath.

However I would say that some of the writings on griffith and his attitudes in and around the civil war have always prompted a negative reaction on my part.

Griffith is one of those characters I look at times and wonder if he truely even understood Ireland & the irish , particulalry outside of the politico's within dublin. and before the inference is mad ethat this purely based on his pro treaty stance, I would never level a simialr accusation at Collins....on a side note is there not a good deal of material suggestng some fundamental differences between the two on civil war? in spite of famous photo of them marching almost arm in arm and collins subsequently parading in uniform at griffith's funeral. Or is this just nit picking?

Plus I would admit that, by comparison, I judge childers in part on his son , which is unfair on griffith I guess. But have always believe dhim to be an upright man of honour.
 

MayoDub

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I was just reading some of the historical Dáil Debates, particularly this one in relation to the election of Arthur Griffiths as President in January 1922 after de Valera's resignation. What struck me was the way in which Griffith unilaterally coarsened the tone of the debate with a vulgar attack on Erskine Childers (who was tring to raise a point of order). I was quite flabbergasted at the cynical opportunism of it (particularly as Childers was so committed to Ireland and what he perceived to be its cause).

I have highlighted the exchange in bold. What would Eoghan Harris, Ruth Dudley-Edwards, or Kevin Myers make of it, I wonder? I always knew that there was a particular animosity displayed towards Childers by the Free State side, but did comments like this contribute towards Childers' unjustifiable killing? What do the good citizens of P.ie think?



Dil ireann - Volume 3 - 10 January, 1922 - PRESIDENT'S STATEMENT OF POLICY
I must hand it to Ms Markievicz (nee Gore-Booth) for a splendid retort there regarding the origin of the Griffith surname :)
 

eyelight

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I was just reading some of the historical Dáil Debates, particularly this one in relation to the election of Arthur Griffiths as President in January 1922 after de Valera's resignation. What struck me was the way in which Griffith unilaterally coarsened the tone of the debate with a vulgar attack on Erskine Childers (who was tring to raise a point of order). I was quite flabbergasted at the cynical opportunism of it (particularly as Childers was so committed to Ireland and what he perceived to be its cause).

I have highlighted the exchange in bold. What would Eoghan Harris, Ruth Dudley-Edwards, or Kevin Myers make of it, I wonder? I always knew that there was a particular animosity displayed towards Childers by the Free State side, but did comments like this contribute towards Childers' unjustifiable killing? What do the good citizens of P.ie think?



Dil ireann - Volume 3 - 10 January, 1922 - PRESIDENT'S STATEMENT OF POLICY
No wonder the country is banjaxed. Holding up such scumbags as heros.
 

Little_Korean

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BGriffith is one of those characters I look at times and wonder if he truely even understood Ireland & the irish , particulalry outside of the politico's within dublin. and before the inference is mad ethat this purely based on his pro treaty stance, I would never level a simialr accusation at Collins.
What would be the difference between Griffith signing the Treaty and Collins doing the exact same?
 

Roberto Jordan

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What would be the difference between Griffith signing the Treaty and Collins doing the exact same?
As per my , poorly written, post this, entirely ,opinion based conclusion is not derived from their stance on treaty , whereby both were , obviously, signatories and staunch supporters. More related to what I have managed to glean of both men based on bio's, other books & papers related to the period and writings/ speeches of theirs.

I could well be entirely wrong and it may simply be due to my own character/ background. But Collins is a man I think I get, Griffith not so ( so maybe I'm the one with a "probelm" ! :) ) I just think griffith was a strange enough character who was most likley not as well attuned with a cross section of irsh people as some of his contemporaries.

My grandad never spoke glowingly of him , having met both. But that may be down to the quasi-military death cult of Collins.......

Howsoever, my gut still tells me Griffith was only in right place at right time , but my lack of understanding of him prompts interest but also the above somewhat hazy conclsuions.....( was he even a republican at any stage??)
 
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Bren Boru

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Its a potentially interesting discussion and I would say 2 things in particular about it:

1) The statement from Griffith was uncharacteristic.

2) Context. The country was sliding towards civil war. Many heated comments would be made, and regretted, in such circumstances. Dev had just walked out of the Dáil with his supporters and accusations were flying all around the chamber. Markievicz, on leaving, called the pro treaty side "Oath breakers and cowards". Collins shouted back "Foreigners - Americans - English". It seems to me that the scene was a bit chaotic.
 

Nordie Northsider

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I've always thought of Griffith as a pathetic figure. It's well-known that the IRB did a take-over job on Sinn Féin post Easter 1916 and turned it away from the dual-kingdom nut-jobbery espoused by Griffith. You'd think his pride wouldn't allow him to stay in a party stolen away from him, but I suppose there are different kinds of pride.

He had an awful prose style too - page after page of bombastic, wordy tedium.
 

White Horse

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There was and still is a hint of xenophobia in Irish nationalism.

Just look at how often the term "West Brit" is thrown around as an insult.
 
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Its a potentially interesting discussion and I would say 2 things in particular about it:

1) The statement from Griffith was uncharacteristic.

2) Context. The country was sliding towards civil war. Many heated comments would be made, and regretted, in such circumstances. Dev had just walked out of the Dáil with his supporters and accusations were flying all around the chamber. Markievicz, on leaving, called the pro treaty side "Oath breakers and cowards". Collins shouted back "Foreigners - Americans - English". It seems to me that the scene was a bit chaotic.
No. De Valera was still in the Dáil and opened the debate, as can be seen at the link - all was pretty cordial up to the Griffith outburst. That was what was so jarring when reading through - de Valera was being remarkably conciliatory and polite, the tone of the debate was measured, then when Childers asked to raise a point of order, Griffith just unilaterally decided to sink to gutter tactics. There was no context of bitterness or hysteria to explain it...
 

Roberto Jordan

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No. De Valera was still in the Dáil and opened the debate, as can be seen at the link - all was pretty cordial up to the Griffith outburst. That was what was so jarring when reading through - de Valera was being remarkably conciliatory and polite, the tone of the debate was measured, then when Childers asked to raise a point of order, Griffith just unilaterally decided to sink to gutter tactics. There was no context of bitterness or hysteria to explain it...
Out of keeping with the debate, but in keeping with the position and attitude which I have , for many years, detected and opined as being a growing source of division between him and the Collins wing of the Pro Treaty side. ( notwithstanding Collins' equally well known outburst in the dial mentioned earlier)

This is on the spot speculation on my part , but to what extent was the treat Griffith’s chance, and like an early Gilmore he had to stick or be twisted to the wind.......and would his decidedly divergent original position on the nature of the ideal Irish solution from many, particularly on the anti-treaty side but also, one suspects in the Collins wing of the pro treaty, have made it easier for him to run to the defense of the treaty in a much more forceful way.

Of course the above could be derailed by saying Griffith was being realistic. But so too were Collins & co, but it’s easy to envisage that they saw it as a short term compromise...would it being a longer term fix have bothered Griffith less than many others? I think so, likely less than any other leader pro or anti treaty…..
 

pinemartin

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Griffith actions in the treaty negotiations led to the Irish delegation being exposed. He did a side deal with(i think Lloyd George) that left the Irish delegation in a weaken position.

His anti English pronouncements in the Dail do not surprise me, he dosnt not seem to have been to enlightened a character. Anyone know a good biography on him?
 

Rocky

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Griffith was a gobdaw.

I wonder would he have been rude to Connolly if he had survived? ;)
I doubt Griffith was a fan of Connolly either. He wasn't exactly a Communist to put it lightly.
 

Cruimh

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While there may have been something in Sinn Fein´s protectionist economic theories and policy of parliamentary abstention to appeal to Joyce´s nationalism, Griffith´s lack of socialist feeling was a signal deficiency to a writer whose continental experience was of serious class politics in Italy. Also, to the cosmopolitan Joyce, Griffith´s antisemitic xenophobia was intolerable. In his words:
"What I object to most of all in his paper is that it is educating the people of
Ireland on the old pap of racial hatred whereas anyone can see that if the
Irish question exists, it exists for the Irish proletariat chiefly".
NATIONALISM IN JAMES JOYCE
 

Rocky

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Both Griffith and Childers were unusual relative to the more convetional backgrounds of SF/ IRA leadership .

The whole elevationof SF & therefore griffith to the head of nationalism is something that has been well thread over I guess in discussions of '16 and its aftermath.

However I would say that some of the writings on griffith and his attitudes in and around the civil war have always prompted a negative reaction on my part.

Griffith is one of those characters I look at times and wonder if he truely even understood Ireland & the irish , particulalry outside of the politico's within dublin. and before the inference is mad ethat this purely based on his pro treaty stance, I would never level a simialr accusation at Collins....on a side note is there not a good deal of material suggestng some fundamental differences between the two on civil war? in spite of famous photo of them marching almost arm in arm and collins subsequently parading in uniform at griffith's funeral. Or is this just nit picking?

Plus I would admit that, by comparison, I judge childers in part on his son , which is unfair on griffith I guess. But have always believe dhim to be an upright man of honour.
On that point, a huge number of the people involved in both 1916 and the WOI (and obviously there's a lot of crossover) state that it was Griffith's writings that influenced and motivated them and arguably it is through maintaining and writing in a series of newspapers throughout the early 1900s that he played his most important role in Irish history.
 
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Griffith actions in the treaty negotiations led to the Irish delegation being exposed. He did a side deal with(i think Lloyd George) that left the Irish delegation in a weaken position.

His anti English pronouncements in the Dail do not surprise me, he dosnt not seem to have been to enlightened a character. Anyone know a good biography on him?
Yes, he gave an assurance to them privately which meant that the Irish delegation's fall-back position of breaking off negotiations over partition rather than over the issue of the Crown was dead in the water. He walked right into a Lloyd-George trap. The British knew that they could not swing public opinion behind them and threaten renewed war if the issue was partition, knowing that they could if the then almost sacrosanct position of the Crown was at stake. Griffith had no choice then, when presented with his earlier assurance, but to sign the Treaty.

It was his screw-up that led directly to the events of the night of the 5th December 1922.
 
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