Arthur Griffith: Architect of Modern Ireland, Part II: 1916-1922

Griffith was neither a spell-binding orator nor a dashing leader; but, writes Richard Davis, he helped to ensure that no authoritarian regime was established in Ireland after 1921.

Griffith was released from prison in December 1916 in a move by the new Lloyd George government to conciliate the Irish and bring the Americans into the war. Lloyd George’s efforts to provide some immediate Home Rule again broke down over the exclusion of the Ulster Protestant counties. By returning to Ireland six months before the heroes of the 1916 Rising were released, Griffith had a head-start in establishing a new movement. What were the possibilities?

The Rising, while popularising advanced nationalism, had by no means consecrated the idea of violence. Many Irishmen now felt that physical force had done its job in arousing the country and should be replaced by passive resistance, especially as the old constitutionalists seemed to have no answer to the Ulster problem. Griffith, therefore, re-established his paper, Nationality, and agitated for his old policy. He soon gathered grass-roots support on an unprecendented scale, and absorbed rival groupings into his revived Sinn Fein. The old difficulty remained.

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