Brian O'Higgins (Irish: Brian Ó hUigínn; 1 July 1882 – 10 March 1963), also known as Brian na Banban, was an Irish poet, Sinn Féin politician and a founding member of the organisation. He was President of Sinn Féin from 1931 to 1933. He took part in the 1916 Easter Rising and was present in the GPO during the rebellion. O'Higgins wrote the notable anti-recruitment poem Who Is Ireland's Enemy? -- he was elected unopposed as a Sinn Féin MP for Clare West at the 1918 general election.
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. 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 lost his seat at the June 1927 general election.
O'Higgins was born in Kilskyre, County Meath to a family with strong Fenian and Parnellite traditions. He moved to Dublin as a teenager and became active in the Gaelic League. From the late 1920s he ran a successful business publishing greeting cards, calendars etc. decorated with Celtic designs and O'Higgins' own verses. 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.
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.
- "Ó hUIGINN, Brian (1882–1963)". ainm.ie (in Irish). Cló Iar-Chonnacht. Retrieved 2 January 2014.
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Arthur Alfred Lynch
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