Liam Cosgrave (b. 1920)
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Liam Cosgrave (b. 1920)


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Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave recalls the fact that when he was a young child in January 1923 the family home in Dublin was destroyed by fire by the Irregulars. For a period thereafter, he lived with his father at his paternal grandparents’ home in James’s Street. His mother moved back to her former home in Rialto with his brother Philip. The family later lived together at a house in the army barracks in the Curragh before moving back to their restored original home. His father, William T. Cosgrave, was a member of Dublin Corporation for an extended period, and Liam explains that he corresponded from Reading Jail about the widening of a road in a particular location. He discusses his father’s involvement in the building of the McCaffrey estate in Mount Brown, work on which began in 1931 with labour provided by former soldiers. William T. Cosgrave was educated at James’s Street CBS and at Marino, and he is remembered as a great reader. He worked for about two decades in his mother’s business in James’s Street and was elected to Dublin Corporation in about 1908. He was a member of the 4th Battalion Irish Volunteers along with his brother Philip and his stepbrother. He had joined Sinn Féin with Philip and his uncle Pat at the inaugural meeting in 1905. Liam explains that his father drilled with his battalion at Larkfield in Kimmage, and because he did not approve of oath-bound organisations he refused to join the IRB. Liam discusses the Battle for the South Dublin Union, later St Kevin’s (now St James’s Hospital). The 4th Battalion fought in the Union and in Marrowbone Lane under Éamon Ceannt. The Nurses’ Home in the Union was the Volunteer headquarters during Easter Week. Following the surrender, William T. Cosgrave and his brother Philip were court-martialled and sentenced to death. Their sentences were later commuted. William T. was interned in Frongoch in Wales and was released under the general amnesty in January 1917. Liam recalls his step-aunt, Joan Burke, and his grandmother’s strong character is described. Her husband died when he was quite young, and Tom Burke became her second husband. The couple had a son and a daughter and their son Frank (Gobban) was shot by the British at the South Dublin Union. William T. Cosgrave was impressed by Griffith’s teachings. His son remarks that he was devoid of self-interest and did not propagandise on his own behalf. He is remembered as an active man who had a keen interest in horses. The by-election campaign in Kilkenny North in August 1917 is recalled, when William T. Cosgrave was elected Sinn Féin MP. Liam explains the reason why his father stood for election there. He was re-elected in the general election of the following year. He supported Michael Collins wholeheartedly. Liam describes an occasion when his father visited Tim Healy following the death of Thomas Ashe and arranged that Healy would appear at the inquest. He also explains what was decided with regard to the wake. Sir Bryan Mahon from Ballymore Eustace and City Treasurer Edmund Eyre helped on this occasion. They were later appointed to Seánad Éireann by W. T. Cosgrave Liam apportions great credit to the Army and the Garda Siochána in enabling the young State to survive. The Army Mutiny of March 1924 is recalled, as is his father’s role as President of the Executive Council in resolving the issue. Mention is made of the Meredith Enquiry into the event. Liam recalls his mother, Louisa Flanagan, daughter of Alderman Flanagan who died in 1931. She and W.T. Cosgrave married in 1919, and they had two sons. William T. Cosgrave was appointed Minister for Defence in 1924 and Minister for Justice in 1927. Liam explains the reason why he had been appointed Chairman of the Finance Committee in Dublin Corporation, which was related to his great ability with figures. His father’s role in the writing of the Irish Constitution is discussed. His friendship with Joe McGrath, (who was also a member of 4th Battalion), and the development of the Hospitals Sweepstakes is also recalled. Liam remarks that Joe McGrath was very charitable to people from both sides in the Civil War, and the Hospitals Sweepstakes provided great employment. Michael Noyek, a solicitor and a friend of Arthur Griffith, is remembered. William T. Cosgrave is recalled as a very practical person. His main task in government was to aid with the establishment of the new State. His son says that the government did a good job by promoting both agriculture and industry. The line adopted by the anti-Treaty TDs from 1927 is considered. The change in government in 1932 is recalled, as is and W. T. Cosgrave’s realism about public opinion. His great understanding of parliamentary rules and procedure is recalled. His hobbies were hunting and riding. He hunted with the Meaths, the Kildares and later the Wards. He had a great love of horses and watched the polo playing in the Park and would attend horse races. He resigned from political life some months after his son was elected a TD in 1943. W. T. Cosgrave died in November 1965 and he is buried in Goldenbridge Cemetery in Inchicore. At the time of his father’s death, Liam was leader of Fine Gael and leader of the Opposition in Dáil Éireann. The commemorations in the Mansion House in 1966 are remembered. As far as Liam Cosgrave can recall a re-enactment of the First Dáil took place. He feels that it is invidious to make comparisons between that time and the present day. He recalls the fact that army recruitment in Ireland was poor until the fall of France during WWII. After a meeting at which his father spoke, a change of attitude occurred and the recruitment drive was supported by both sides. Liam recalls the pro-German attitudes which arose, probably because of anti-British feelings. Liam Cosgrave explains that his original electoral constituency reached from Balbriggan to Bray, so he was kept very busy. He had been in the army and was studying law, and he qualified as a barrister and was elected a TD during the same period. He speaks about his army life which he enjoyed very much. He was stationed at the Curragh which suited his lifelong interest in horses. He recalls the friendships he made in equine circles at that time, and explains that three of his female cousins married English jockeys who lived in Ireland. He had enlisted during WWII when news from Europe was very limited. The putative threat of invasion at that time is considered, and he emphasises the fact that rumour was rife. The rules of racing are discussed, and his father’s time as a steward at Leopardstown, The Curragh and at Phoenix Park racecourses is recalled. The constituent members of the Racing Board as established by statute in 1944 are discussed. Liam Cosgrave was elected Taoiseach of the Fine Gael/ Labour Party coalition government in 1973. He retired as Dáil deputy for Dun Laoghaire in 1981.

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Disk, MP3

Audio series:

The 1916 Rising Oral History Collections


128 kbps

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48 hours

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56.11 MB

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William T. Cosgrave (Interviewee’s father)

Recorded by:

Maurice O’Keeffe – Irish Life and Lore