Sean MacBride

A Republican Life, 1904-1946

Caoimhe Dháibhéid

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ISBN: 9781781380116

Publication: April 3, 2014

In the USA? Buy the Paperback US edition
Seán MacBride, son of Easter Rising leader John MacBride and nationalist activist Maud Gonne, was an key figure in the Irish republican movement in the decades after independence. Rising to the position of Chief-of-Staff in 1936, in 1938 he left the IRA and concentrated on his burgeoning career at the Irish Bar. In 1946 he founded a new republican political party, Clann na Poblachta and was elected to Dáil Éireann in 1947. The following year, he and his party helped to form Ireland’s first coalition government, MacBride taking the ministerial portfolio of External Affairs. As Minister, MacBride was intimately involved in the early stages of European co-operation, and oversaw Ireland’s exit from the Commonwealth and the declaration of the Republic in 1949. In 1951, the coalition government collapsed when MacBride refused to support the position of Noël Browne, his party and cabinet colleague, in his attempt to introduce free health care for mothers and children. Exiting Irish politics some years later, MacBride reinvented himself as a humanitarian activist, acting as Chairman of Amnesty International, Secretary-General of the International Commission of Jurists, and President of the International Peace Bureau. He was appointed United Nations High Commissioner to Namibia, and lent his name to the contested MacBride Principles, aimed at enforcing free employment practices in Northern Ireland. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1974 and the Lenin Peace Prize in 1976. Despite these illustrious achievements, MacBride remained a controversial figure in Irish and Anglo-Irish political circles, owing to his long association with violent Irish republicanism. This book examines MacBride’s republican career in-depth, helping to explain why he was viewed with such suspicion by the political establishment up to his death in 1988.

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.


Nic Dhaibheid’s impressive and important new study now stands as the essential work on MacBride’s equally fascinating early years.

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.

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.

[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.

An extremely interesting biographical study, written with a light and sensitive hand, which skilfully paints a credible portrait of a complex and elusive character.

Format: Paperback

Size: 234 x 156mm

245 Pages

ISBN: 9781781380116

Publication: April 3, 2014

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