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Arthur Griffith

Biography

A printer, journalist, and editor, Arthur Griffith established Sinn Féin between 1905 and 1907. Although Sinn Féin’s policies were not widely popular in nationalist circles, the party and its eponymous newspaper were influential in fostering the idea of Irish self-reliance. Despite being a member of the Irish Volunteers and participating in the Howth gun-running, Griffith was reluctant to use violence and did not participate in the Easter Rising, although, according to some accounts, he offered his services at the GPO.  He was nevertheless arrested and interned, and Sinn Féin became popularly associated with the events of Easter week. This association transformed the party into a political vehicle for republicans, with Éamon de Valera taking over the leadership. Griffith was elected to the First Dáil as part of Sinn Féin’s landslide victory in 1918. He served as President of the Dáil during de Valera’s excursion to America, and assumed the role of Minister for Foreign Affairs upon his return. In 1921, Griffith led the Irish delegation to London to negotiate the Anglo-Irish Treaty where, along with Michael Collins, he was one of the principal negotiators with David Lloyd George, the British Prime Minister. After the Treaty was accepted by the Dáil, he was elected as its President, though he would be largely overshadowed in this role by Collins, who was appointed as leader of the Provisional Government. His heavy workload for the government and the outbreak of Civil War placed a great deal of strain on Griffith, and his health deteriorated rapidly. He died in St Vincent’s nursing home on 12th August 1922.


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