Brian O'Higgins

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Brian O'Higgins
Teachta Dála
In office
December 1918 – June 1927
Constituency West Clare
Personal details
Born 1 July 1882
Kilskyre, County Meath
Died 10 March 1963
Clontarf, Dublin
Nationality Irish
Occupation Politician, writer and poet

Brian O'Higgins (Irish: Brian Ó hUigínn; 1 July 1882 – 10 March 1963), also known as Brian na Banban, was an Irish revolutionary, poet, Gaelic revivalist, Sinn Féin politician and a founding member of the organisation. He was President of Sinn Féin from 1931 to 1933.


O'Higgins was born in Kilskyre, County Meath in 1882 to a family with strong Fenian and Parnellite traditions. His grandfather was from County Tyrone and made his way down to Tara to take part in the 1798 rebellion.[1] He moved to Dublin as a teenager and joined the Gaelic League in 1901.[2] From the late 1920s he ran a successful business publishing greeting cards, calendars etc. decorated with Celtic designs and O'Higgins' own verses. After the suppression of An Phoblacht in 1937, he founded and edited The Wolfe Tone Weekly from 1937–1939 until it was also banned by the Free State Government. From 1935 to 1962 he published the Wolfe Tone Annual which gave popular accounts of episodes in Irish history from a republican viewpoint. He was a devout Catholic and critical of those who believed republicans should be socialists. Several of his children became Catholic priests.

Oh, who is Ireland's enemy? Not Germany nor Spain,
Nor Russia, France nor Austria, they forged for her no chain.
Nor quenched her hearths, nor razed her homes, nor laid her altars low,
Nor sent her sons across the hills amid the winter's snow.

Who murdered kingly Shane O'Neill? Who poisoned Owen Roe?
Who struck Red Hugh O'Donnell down? Who filled our land with woe?
By night and day a thousand times, in twice four hundred years,
'Till every blade of Irish grass was wet with blood and tears.

— Brian na Banban, Who Is Ireland's Enemy?, 1917.

He took part in the 1916 Easter Rising and was present in the GPO during the rebellion. He did not take part in any fighting due to illness, but helped in other ways.[1] He was interned in Stafford Gaol and Frongoch internment camp until February 1917.[2]

He was elected unopposed as a Sinn Féin MP for Clare West at the 1918 general election.[3]

In January 1919, Sinn Féin MPs who had been elected in the Westminster elections of 1918 refused to recognise the Parliament of the United Kingdom and instead assembled in Dublin as a revolutionary parliament called Dáil Éireann. He was involved in the establishment of the Republican courts in County Clare.[1]

Higgins was re-elected as an anti-Treaty Sinn Féin Teachta Dála (TD) at the 1921, 1922 and 1923 elections. He opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty and voted against it. He was imprisoned in 1923 and went on hunger strike. He almost died and the strike ended after 24 days.[1]

He lost his seat at the June 1927 general election.[4] He resigned from Sinn Féin in 1934[1] along with Mary MacSwiney in protest against the election of Fr. Michael O'Flanagan as President citing that O'Flanagan had a state job and was "on the pay-roll of a usurping government".[5]

O'Higgins died during a retreat to Saint Anthony's Church in Clontarf, on 10 March 1963. He is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.

O'Higgins and republican legitimacy[edit]

In December 1938, O'Higgins was one of a group of seven people, who had been elected to the Second Dáil in 1921, who met with the IRA Army Council under Seán Russell. At this meeting, the seven signed over what they believed was the authority of the Government of Dáil Éireann to the Army Council. Henceforth, the IRA Army Council perceived itself to be the legitimate government of the Irish Republic and, on this basis, the IRA and Sinn Féin justified their rejection of the states of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and political abstentionism from their parliamentary institutions.

Today, the Continuity IRA claim to be the heirs of this legitimacy and believe to be the legitimate continuation of the original Irish Republican Army or Óglaigh na hÉireann.[6]

Irish Ballads, Poetry and Writings[edit]

Ó hUigínn's wrote numerous ballads and poems about Ireland throughout his life time. Many which are still sung at Feiseanna and Fleadh Ceoils.

Books, Journals, Newspapers[edit]

  • A Bunch of Wild Flowers, Poems on Religious Subjects; published 1906.
  • The Voice of Banba, Songs, Ballads and Satires; published 1907.
  • By a Hearth in Éireann: Stories and Sketches; published 1908.
  • At the Hill o' the Road, Songs and poems; published 1909
  • Síol na Saoirse, Dánta; published 1910.
  • Hearts of Gold: Stories and Sketches; published 1917.
  • The Soldier's Story of Easter Week; published 1925.
  • Poems of 1916 [and] Prison Letters, 1917 - 1920; (unpublished).
  • Unconquered Ireland; published 1927
  • Songs of Glen na Móna; published 1929.
  • The Little Book of Christmas; published 1930.
  • A Rosary of Song, Poems on Sacred Subjects; published 1932.
  • Martyrs for Ireland: the story of MacCormick and Barnes; published 1940.
  • Oliver of Ireland: The Story of Blessed Oliver Plunkett; published 1945.
  • Brian O'Higgins Bulletin Christmas; published 1962.
  • Wolfe Tone Journal

Ballads & Poems[edit]

  • Brave Maurice Ó Néill (Ballad).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ "Mr. Brian O'Higgins". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 11 April 2009. 
  4. ^ "Brian O'Higgins". Retrieved 11 April 2009. 
  5. ^ "Compromise and Confusion by Brian O'Higgins". 
  6. ^ van Engeland, Anisseh (2008). From Terrorism to Politics (Ethics and Global Politics). Ashgate Publishing. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-7546-4990-8. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Arthur Lynch
Sinn Féin Member of Parliament for Clare West
Constituency abolished
New constituency Sinn Féin Teachta Dála for Clare West
Constituency abolished
Party political offices
Preceded by
John J. O'Kelly
Leader of Sinn Féin
Succeeded by
Fr. Michael O'Flanagan