Arthur Griffith: Reactionary Father of the Free State


  • Fearghal Mac Bhloscaidh


In 1910, Arthur Griffith’s Sinn Féin carried a review of James Connolly’s Labour in Irish History, repeating the well-rehearsed criticism of the material conception of history that in making sense of the past, one factor (class) cannot dominate the others since ‘the skein of human affairs is too complex to be unravelled by any system so simple.’ Griffith had ‘no hesitation’ in warning ‘that class war in Ireland,’ as promulgated by Connolly, ‘would destroy every vestige of the possibility of restoring our nationhood.’ In short, for Griffith, Connolly’s book strove not to ‘present a scientific analysis of our history and its relation to the labour question,’ but ‘to propagate the socialistic idea.’ His criticism rang hollow, however, considering the dominant factor in his own worldview - the imagined community of an Irish nation, the irrational foundation for the castles in the air Griffith conjured across a quarter century of public life.