Joseph McGrath (politician)

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For other people named Joseph McGrath, see Joseph McGrath (disambiguation).

Joseph McGrath (Irish: Seosamh Mac Craith; 1887 – 1 March 1966) was an Irish politician and businessman.[1] He was a Sinn Féin and later a Cumann na nGaedheal Teachta Dála (TD) for various constituencies in Dublin and County Mayo and developed widespread business interests.

Political career[edit]

McGrath was born in Dublin in 1887. By 1916 he was working with his brother George at Craig Gardiner & Co, a firm of accountants in Dawson Street, Dublin. He worked with Michael Collins, a part-time fellow clerk and the two struck up a friendship. In his spare time McGrath worked as secretary for the Volunteer Dependents' Fund.[2]

He soon joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood. He fought in Marrowbone Lane in the 1916 Easter Rising. McGrath was arrested after the rising, and jailed in Wormwood Scrubs and Brixton prisons in England. In the 1918 general election, he was elected as Sinn Féin TD for the Dublin St James's constituency and later went on to become a member of the First Dáil.[3] He was also a member of the Irish Republican Army, the guerrilla army of the Irish Republic, and successfully organised many bank robberies during the Irish war of Independence (1919–1921), where a small percentage of the proceeds was retained as a reward by him and his fellow-soldiers.[4]

In October 1921 McGrath travelled with the Irish Treaty delegation to London as one of Michael Collins' personal staff. In the Irish Civil War of 1922–1923, he took the pro-treaty side and was made Director of Intelligence, replacing Liam Tobin. In a strongly worded letter, written in red ink, McGrath warned Collins not to take his last, ill-fated trip to Cork.[2]

He was later put in charge of the police Intelligence service of the new Irish Free State, the Criminal Investigation Department or CID. It was accused of the torture and killing of a number of republican (anti-treaty) prisoners during the civil war and was disbanded at the war's end, being unnecessary for a police force in peacetime. McGrath went on to serve as Minister for Labour in the Second Dáil and the Provisional Government of Ireland. He also served in the 1st and 2nd Executive Councils holding the Industry and Commerce portfolio.

McGrath resigned from office in April 1924 because of dissatisfaction with the government's attitude to the Army Mutiny officers and as he said himself,

government by a clique and by the officialdom of the old regime.

By this he meant that former IRA fighters were being overlooked and that the Republican goals on all Ireland had been sidelined.[5] McGrath and eight other TDs who had resigned from Cumann na nGaedheal then resigned their seats to contest by-elections, running as the National Party. However, Cumann na nGaedheal won seven of these and Sinn Féin won the other two.

Business interests[edit]

Following his political career he went on to become involved in the building trade. In 1925 he became labour adviser to Siemens-Schuckert, German contractors for the Ardnacrusha hydro-electric scheme near Limerick. McGrath founded the Irish Hospitals' Sweepstake in 1930, and the success of its sweepstakes made him an extremely wealthy man. He had other extensive and successful business interests always investing in Ireland and became Ireland's best-known racehorse owner and breeder, winning the Epsom Derby with Arctic Prince in 1951.

McGrath died at his home, Cabinteely House, in Dublin in March 1966.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Mr. Joseph McGrath". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 12 February 2012. 
  2. ^ a b James Alexander Mackay, Michael Collins: a life, Mainstream Publishing, 1996
  3. ^ "Joseph McGrath". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 12 February 2012. 
  4. ^ Coleman, Marie (2009). The Irish Sweep: a History of the Irish Hospitals Sweepstake, 1930–87. Dublin: University College Dublin Press. ISBN 978-1-906359-40-9. 
  5. ^ "Dáil Éireann – Volume 6". Dáil Debates. 3 April 1924. Retrieved 13 April 2012. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Constance Markievicz
Minister for Labour
1922
Succeeded by
Patrick Hogan
Preceded by
Ernest Blythe
Minister for Industry and Commerce
1922–1924
Succeeded by
Patrick McGilligan