Remembering Cathal Brugha – Irish Revolutionaries
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Remembering Cathal Brugha

Remembering Cathal Brugha

Charles William St John Burgess was born in Dublin in 1874. His father, Thomas, was a cabinet maker and antique dealer who had been disinherited by his family for marrying an Irish Catholic, Maryanne Flynn.

In 1899, Brugha joined the Gaelic League, and he subsequently changed his name from Charles Burgess to Cathal Brugha. He met his future wife, Kathleen Kingston, at an Irish class in Birr, County Offaly, and they married in 1912.

Brugha became actively involved in the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB); in 1913, he became a lieutenant in the Irish Volunteers. He led a group of twenty Volunteers to receive the arms smuggled into Ireland in the Howth gun-running of 1914.

During the 1916 rising Brugha was second-in-command at the South Dublin Union under Commandant Éamonn Ceannt.

On the Thursday of Easter Week, being severely wounded, he was unable to leave when the retreat was ordered. Brugha, weak from loss of blood, continued to fire upon the enemy and was found by Eamonn Ceannt singing "God Save Ireland" with his pistol still in his hands.

In the years following the Rising, Brugha became a member of the Sinn Féin executive. He organized the amalgamation of the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army into the Irish Republican Army and became IRA Chief of Staff in October 1917.

Brugha was elected a Sinn Féin MP for County Waterford in the 1918 general election.

Brugha was elected Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann at its first meeting on January 21st 1919, and he read out the Declaration of Independence in Irish, which ratified "the establishment of the Irish Republic". On the following day, January 22nd, he was appointed president of the ministry pro tempore.

On January 7th 1922, Brugha voted against the Anglo-Irish Treaty. But he also attempted to dissuade his fellow anti-treaty army leaders from taking up arms against the Free State.

As Republicans occupied the Four Courts, he called on them to abandon their position. When they refused, Brugha ordered the occupation of the area around O'Connell Street to support them.

Most of the anti-Treaty fighters under Oscar Traynor escaped from O'Connell Street when the buildings they were holding caught fire, leaving Brugha in command of a small rearguard.

On July 5th he ordered his men to surrender but refused to do so himself. He then approached the Free State troops, brandishing a revolver.

Brugha sustained a bullet wound to the leg which 'severed a major artery causing him to bleed to death'.

Brugha died on July 7th 1922, eleven days before his 48th birthday. He had been re-elected as an anti-Treaty TD at the 1922 general election but died before the Dáil assembled. He is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.

Cathal Brugha Street and Cathal Brugha Barracks in Dublin and Cathal Brugha Street in Waterford are named after him.


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