Another unrepentant Republican: Cathal Brugha
Cathal Brugha was born Charles William St. John Burgess in Dublin on 18 July 1874. Growing up in a relatively well off household, his early life was simple but good. He entered Belvedere College at age 15, but was forced to leave school after a year and get a job when his father's business failed.
Brugha became active in Gaelic League
circles in 1899 and became familiar with prominent Republicans in the nationalist brewing pot of Dublin. Looking for an outlet for his national aspirations, he joined the Irish Volunteers
in 1913 as lieutenant and established himself as a fair but strict leader as well as an apt soldier.
His first prominent action as an officer in the Volunteers was the gun smuggling operation involving the ship Asgard. Brugha was entrusted as officer commanding the troops receiving the guns off the docks and getting them back safely into Dublin and the surrounding countryside.
As second officer commanding troops at the South Dublin Union, he fought the Brits during the Easter Rising
. His commanding officer was the later executed Eamonn Ceannt
. The injuries he received during the fighting he would never completely rehabilitate from; he would feel the effects of the fourteen wounds
(not an exaggeration) he received for the rest of his life.
Following the General Amnesty of 1917, Cathal focused on building and organising the swelling ranks of the IRA and was extremely efficient in doing so. Elected to the First Dail Eireann in the General Election of 1918
for the constituency of Co. Waterford, he was appointed Minister of Defence.
De Valera was in prison when the election for President of the Republic was carried out in 1919 and he was elected de facto. Brugha was appointed as the Acting President of the Irish Republic until Dev was released from jail. During this time, he was highly active along with Army Commandant Michael Collins
in mobilising and effectively training the Army for guerilla war against their enemies.
Brugha was appointed to the winter 1921 Delegation sent to London to meet the Brits. In characteristic fashion, he refused to leave his troops to negotiate with the enemy. He and Austin Stack
opted to stay home. It was from this delegation that the so called "Anglo-Irish Treaty" was signed.
Brugha immediately denounced the farcical Treaty saying "If our last bullet had been fired, our last shilling spent & our last man were lying on the ground with his enemies howling round him with the bayonets raised ready to plunge into his body, that man should say - true to the tradition handed down - if they say to him 'Now, will you come into our Empire?' - he should and he would say 'No, I will not.'
" He was replaced as Defence Minister in the Dail by Richard Mulcahy
for refusing to accept the Treaty.
He continued to lead his troops, but now he led them against his former comrades in arms, the Free State traitors
who were using British weaponry
against the Irregulars[sic]. Brugha was unrelenting in his quest to secure the 32-County Irish Republic and like so many of his other comrades, he paid with British lead.
Suiting his reputation, Cathal Brugha fought on as others surrendered. He continued the fight to the last, this time in the block of hotels on O'Connell St, acting as the informal headquarters of the Dublin Brigade of the IRA. As the remaining leaders, including De Valera
, Stack and Traynor, escaped after a diversion by the diminished garrison. Brugha stayed behind with the last 17 men. When their position was overrun, those not dead or wounded surrendered, but Brugha refused.
The Free Staters asked "Where is Cathal Brugha?" and they suddenly caught a glimpse of him in a doorway up ahead. The traitors yelled for him to surrender, but the unrelenting Republican defiantly screamed "NO!" and fired his revolver into the group of troops. He was cut down by the volley of shots that ensued and could fight no longer. He was driven to a hospital, where he would die two days later, July 7th, 1922, just short of his 48th birthday.
Those who met Cathal during that last turbulent week understood his mentality and his mission's end. He vocally expressed his intention of dying, if only to show the hypocrisy and hopelessness of the situation created by signing the Treaty of Partition. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.