Desmond FitzGerald (politician)

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Desmond FitzGerald
Minister for Defence
In office
23 June 1927 – 9 March 1932
PresidentW. T. Cosgrave
Preceded byPeter Hughes
Succeeded byFrank Aiken
Minister for External Affairs
In office
30 August 1922 – 23 June 1927
PresidentW. T. Cosgrave
Preceded byMichael Hayes
Succeeded byKevin O'Higgins
Minister for Publicity
In office
26 August 1921 – 9 September 1922
PresidentW. T. Cosgrave
Preceded byOffice created
Succeeded byOffice abolished
Director of Publicity
In office
17 June 1919 – 11 February 1921
Preceded byLaurence Ginnell
Succeeded byErskine Childers
In office
7 September 1938 – 8 September 1943
ConstituencyAdministrative Panel
Teachta Dála
In office
February 1932 – July 1937
In office
May 1921 – February 1932
ConstituencyDublin County
In office
December 1918 – May 1921
ConstituencyDublin Pembroke
Personal details
Thomas Joseph FitzGerald

(1888-02-13)13 February 1888
Forest Gate, Essex, England
Died9 April 1947(1947-04-09) (aged 59)
Ballsbridge, Dublin, Ireland
Political party
(m. 1911)
Children4, including Garret
EducationSt Bonaventure's
Alma mater [citation needed]

Desmond FitzGerald (13 February 1888 – 9 April 1947) was an Irish revolutionary, poet, publicist and Fine Gael politician who served as Minister for Defence from 1927 to 1932, Minister for External Affairs from 1922 to 1927, Minister for Publicity from 1921 to 1922 and Director of Publicity from 1919 to 1921. He served as a Teachta Dála (TD) from 1918 to 1937. He was a Senator for the Administrative Panel from 1938 to 1943.[1]

Early life[edit]

Desmond FitzGerald was born Thomas Joseph FitzGerald in Forest Gate in West Ham, Essex in 1888.[2] His parents were Patrick Fitzgerald (1831–1908), a labourer from south Tipperary, and Mary Anne Scollard (1847–1927) from Castleisland, County Kerry. He changed his first name as a teenager to the more romantic "Desmond", and first visited Ireland in 1910.[3] He was a student at St Bonaventure's.[4]

In London, he was a member of the Tour Eiffel group of poets and writers, which included Ezra Pound, T. E. Hulme, F. S. Flint and another Irish writer, Joseph Campbell. The group was named after the restaurant in which the group met, the Tour Eiffel in Soho.[5][6] In April 1908, FitzGerald and Florence Farr introduced Ezra Pound to the Tour Eiffel group, a meeting out of which the Imagist group was later to emerge.[7]

Marriage and family[edit]

In 1911 FitzGerald, a Catholic, married Mabel Washington McConnell (1884–1958), a daughter of John McConnell, a whiskey salesman from Belfast, and granddaughter of a Presbyterian farmer near the city. Educated at Queen's University Belfast, she shared FitzGerald's interest in the Irish language; she met him in London at a language seminar. They lived in France until moving to County Kerry in March 1913. During this period he became involved with the Imagist group of poets. They had four children: Desmond (1911–1987), Pierce (1914–1986), Fergus (1920–1983) and Garret (1926–2011).

Irish nationalist[edit]

FitzGerald joined the Irish Volunteers in 1914 and organised a Volunteers group in County Kerry. As an organizer he was expected to drill even the most unsuited recruits. This offended his disciplined morality.[8] The organization was under enormous pressure: many leaders were expelled in July 1915 under the Defence of the Realm Act 1914. FitzGerald took the place of Ernest Blythe.[9] In 1915 FitzGerald was imprisoned for making a speech against recruitment during the First World War.[10] He was later expelled from Kerry, and moved to County Wicklow. FitzGerald's abstemious, parsimonious character, backed up by a long Anglo-Norman family history, made him an unpopular figure in the movement. He felt his bosses were unaware of his situation. During the occupation of the General Post Office during the 1916 Rising, he commented "I was bemused by the general attitude of security". At the height of the battle he was in the midst of the conflagration that shook the GPO garrison.[11] Ever the sceptic, FitzGerald, who was in charge of rations, mentions in his memoir of the 1916 Rising the sudden and unexpected mobilisation, followed by a description of conditions in the GPO, the rebels' headquarters. While many accounts describe the Rising as a form of blood sacrifice, FitzGerald discussed its wider rationale with the leader[12] Patrick Pearse, and with Joseph Plunkett who had travelled to Germany in 1915 for assistance. They expected that Germany would win the First World War, and that a rising of at least three days would allow Ireland to take a seat at the peace conference. Though declaring an Irish Republic in 1916, they considered it would probably be necessary to invite the Kaiser's youngest son Joachim to reign over a reformed kingdom of Ireland after the war, where Irish was to again become the everyday language.[13]

FitzGerald was released in 1918 when he was elected as a Sinn Féin MP for the Dublin Pembroke constituency.[14] Following the assembly of the First Dáil in 1919, and the declaration of the Irish Republic, he was appointed Director of Publicity for Dáil Éireann, first joining the paper Nationality in May to replace the arrested Laurence Ginnell. FitzGerald remarked in the first report he made to the Dáil that 'our chief means of publicity was by means of publicity'. He struggled to make an impression on the British press, who supplied most of Ireland's foreign news.[15]

In May 1919, Erskine Childers, FitzGerald's friend and colleague, went to Versailles intending to be part of the Peace Conference. Childers became increasingly frustrated by the high-handed British attitude towards Irish independence. FitzGerald started a mimeograph entitled Weekly Summary of Acts of Aggression by the Enemy in July 1919. By November he had joined with Childers to produce the Irish Bulletin. For twenty-two months they publicized the crimes of England, with the purpose of bolstering the Dáil's credibility with Sinn Féin. Despite the Dáil's complaint in 1920 that the lists were "inadequate", the momentum behind the Propaganda Department threw their opponents into confusion.[16] During the Irish War of Independence (1919–1921) the Bulletin managed to publicise the aims of the Irish Republic to the wider world with increasing success, and removed the likelihood of the conflict being widened. In devising a strategy to retain Ulster, leading republican Ernest Blythe believed a blockade would be disastrous for Belfast.[17] Conversely, Seán MacEntee demanded a response to what he considered to be a war of extermination against nationalism; there was, he argued, "the potent weapon of blockade". Many leading republicans were firmly against it: FitzGerald declared a blockade would be tantamount "to a vote for partition".[18] The Dáil's department seemed to be winning the propaganda war with the Castle, whose operations could not convince the public. The Secretariat was convinced the Bulletin should continue, when its papers and materials were seized in a raid.[19] FitzGerald was arrested in March 1921, but was released. In late August 1921 Éamon de Valera reshuffled his Cabinet, in which FitzGerald was not included; although in replacing Childers he was named Minister of Publicity.[20] He was one of the TDs who were unsuccessful in persuading de Valera to join the negotiators of the Anglo-Irish Treaty that was signed on 6 December.

Government minister[edit]

FitzGerald supported the Treaty. On 30 August 1922, he was designated the Minister for External Affairs of the Provisional Government of Southern Ireland. On the date he was appointed, Southern Ireland was still part of the UK; only because the administration was a transitional one did it have a Minister for External Affairs. The Irish Free State was established on 6 December 1922.

FitzGerald, by letter dated 17 April 1923, applied on behalf of the Irish Free State for membership of the League of Nations.[21] Ireland was admitted to membership the following year. FitzGerald also represented the new state at the Imperial Conferences. In 1927 FitzGerald became Minister for Defence. Following the defeat of the government in 1932 he remained as a TD until 1937. In 1938, he was elected to Seanad Éireann, where he remained until retiring from politics in 1943.


One of his sons, Garret FitzGerald, likewise served as Minister for Foreign Affairs in the 1970s and Taoiseach on two occasions in the 1980s.

Desmond FitzGerald died on 9 April 1947 in Dublin, aged 59.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Desmond FitzGerald". Oireachtas Members Database. Archived from the original on 20 April 2019. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  2. ^ Murphy, William. "FitzGerald, (Thomas Joseph) Desmond". Dictionary of Irish Biography. Retrieved 5 January 2022.
  3. ^ Desmond's Rising: Memoirs 1913 to Easter 1916, with foreword by Garret FitzGerald; Liberties Press, Dublin, published 1968 and 2006; pp.9, 11.
  4. ^ Walker, John. "From Forest Gate to Irish Taoiseach, via the Easter rising". Archived from the original on 17 May 2021. Retrieved 17 May 2021.
  5. ^ Carr, Helen, The Verse Revolutionaries: Ezra Pound, H.D. and The Imagists. Random House.
  6. ^ Carr, Helen. The Verse Revolutionaries: Ezra Pound, H.D. and The Imagists (Kindle Location 167). Random House. Kindle Edition.
  7. ^ Carr, Helen. The Verse Revolutionaries: Ezra Pound, H.D. and The Imagists (Kindle Location 3438). Random House. Kindle Edition.
  8. ^ C Townshend, "Easter 1916", (London 2006), p.44-5.
  9. ^ Townshend, p.82.
  10. ^ Murphy, William (2014). Political Imprisonment and the Irish, 1912-1921. Oxford University Press. p. 38. ISBN 978-0191651267. Archived from the original on 6 May 2017. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  11. ^ J.M. Heuston, "Headquarters Battalion, Army of the Irish Republic, Easter Week, 1916" (Tallaght 1966), p.44. Townshend, p.210.
  12. ^ Townshend, p.264.
  13. ^ Desmond's Rising Memoirs 1913 to Easter 1916, op.cit., pp.142-144.
  14. ^ "Desmond FitzGerald". Archived from the original on 18 October 2011. Retrieved 12 February 2012.
  15. ^ Report of the Propaganda Department, n.d., (May 1920), National Archives of Ireland DE:2/10.
  16. ^ C Townshend, "The Republic", p.94-6.
  17. ^ Bureau of Military History WS 939 (Ernest Blythe).
  18. ^ Townshend, "The Republic", p.177.
  19. ^ Townshend, "The Republic", p.299.
  20. ^ Townshend, p.324.
  21. ^ Irish application to join League of Nations dated 17 April 1923 - (Source:


Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament for Dublin Pembroke
Constituency abolished
New constituency Teachta Dála for Dublin Pembroke
Constituency abolished
Political offices
New office Minister for Publicity
Office abolished
Preceded by Minister for External Affairs
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister for Defence
Succeeded by