Kevin O’Higgins joined the Irish Volunteers and Sinn Féin in the aftermath of the Easter Rising. He was elected as a Sinn Féin MP for his native Queen’s County (Laois) in December 1918, and sat in the First Dáil, where he played an active role in the department of local government. A supporter of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, O’Higgins served in the new provisional government as minister for economic affairs and later as minister for home affairs. He became vice-president of the Free State’s executive council upon its formation in December 1922 and took a firm stance in establishing the government’s authority and suppressing anti-Treaty forces through measures such as internment and executions. As minister for justice, O’Higgins presided over a number of important developments in the early years of the state, including the establishment of An Garda Síochána in 1922 and the Army Mutiny of 1924. He also helped to define Cumann na nGaedhal’s social policies, through the introduction of legislation in areas such as censorship and divorce. In July 1927, shortly after being re-elected to the Dáil, O’Higgins was shot and fatally wounded by three IRA gunmen whilst walking to mass.
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