Robert “Bobby” Briscoe

March 15th, 2019 § 1 comment

St. Patrick’s Day is here with all of its blarney, vigorous boozing and ingestion of inferior corned beef and cabbage. HG has been thinking about a remarkable Jewish Irishman, Robert “Bobby” Briscoe (1895-1969). He was a member of Sinn Fein and the IRA. He played a major role in the Irish War for Independence (Michael Collins appointed him head of the operation which ran guns from Germany to Ireland in 1919). Later, he was active in the Irish Civil War on the side of those opposed to the Anglo-Irish treaty which dissolved the Irish republic established in 1918; made Ireland independent but part of the British empire; partitioned Ireland between North and South. The Civil War (June 1922-April 1923) was vicious and claimed some 2,500 lives. When the Civil War ended, Briscoe played a role in turning the anti-treaty nationalists into a political party, the Fianna Fail. As a member of the party, Briscoe served in Ireland’s parliament for 37 years. He was also an ardent Zionist and friend of Vladimir Jabotinsky, the founder of Irgun and and a fiery advocate of using violent means to drive the British out of Palestine. Jabotinsky visited Dublin and received training from Briscoe and other IRA figures in using guerilla tactics against the British. Briscoe was an adviser to the late Menachem Beigin, leader of the Irgun and later Premier of Israel. After an armed skirmish between Israeli government forces and the Irgun which left 19 dead, Briscoe urged Beigin to convert Irgun into a political party in order to avoid a civil war like the bloody Irish affair. Beigin did so and formed the Herut (later Likud) party which rules Israel today. For Americans, Briscoe’s claim to fame was he was elected Dublin’s first Jewish Mayor (Yogi Berra remarked: “Only in America”) and led New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1957. Briscoe’s son, Benjamin, also was a figure in Fianna Fail, served many years in the Irish parliament and was Mayor of Dublin from 1988-89. Briscoe’s daughter converted to Catholicism and became a Carmelite nun. New Yorkers had great affection for Bobby Briscoe since he had a lilting brogue, was gregarious, had a robust sense of humor and enjoyed a friendly drink. A passionate Irish nationalist and an IRA battler, Briscoe was an Orthodox Jew. Laughingly, he said he would be the perfect Mayoral candidate for New York.


§ One Response to Robert “Bobby” Briscoe

  • Claudia Cragg says:

    What an interesting man, and what a shame he never got to be Mayor. He would have been grand. Thank you Gerry.

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