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By any measure, Cathal Brugha’s life was extraordinary: a member of the Gaelic League, Irish Republican Brotherhood and Irish Volunteers; a celebrated survivor of the 1916 Rising, despite multiple gunshot wounds; a crucial figure in the post-Rising reorganization of the Volunteers and Sinn Féin; speaker at the first sitting of Dáil Éireann and president pro tempore; minister for defence in the underground government during the War of Independence; passionate and acerbic opponent of the Anglo-Irish treaty of 1921; a reluctant participant in the Irish civil war, having tried to prevent it; and that conflict’s first high profile fatality in July 1922. Based on exhaustive research, this book challenges the often simplistic and reductive depiction of Brugha by providing a nuanced and multi-layered reappraisal of him. It chronicles his public and private life and the influences that shaped him; assesses his multifaceted involvement in the Irish Revolution and his uncompromising commitment to an Irish republic; contextualizes his relationships with contemporaries such as Michael Collins, Éamon de Valera and Richard Mulcahy; explores how his premature death at the age of forty-seven affected his young family and how his wife, Caitlín, upheld his political principles by standing as a Sinn Féin TD; and reflects on how Brugha’s indomitable patriotism was propagandized after his death. The result is a fascinating portrait of a complex, tenacious, and often misunderstood figure.
Daithí Ó Corráin is assistant professor in the School of History and Geography, Dublin City University. He is co-author of The dead of the Irish Revolution (2020) and co-editor of Four Courts Press’s acclaimed Irish Revolution, 1912–23 series. Gerard Hanley holds a PhD from Dublin City University where he is a research fellow in the School of History and Geography.