Gearóid Ó Cuinneagáin

Gearóid Ó Cuinneagáin (born John Gerald Cunningham; 2 January 1910–13 June 1991) was an Irish language activist, nationalist and far-right politician born in Belfast, Ireland.[1] He was the founder and leader of Ailtirí na hAiséirghe, a fascist party which sought to create a Christian corporatist state and revive the Irish language through the establishment of a totalitarian dictatorship in Ireland.[2]

Gearóid Ó Cuinneagáin
Gearóid Ó Cuinneagáin
Ó Cuinneagáin in 1942
John Gerald Cunningham

January 2, 1910
Belfast, Ireland
DiedJune 13, 1991 (aged 81)
OccupationCivil servant, writer, tax advisor, politician
TitleCeannaire (Leader)
Political partyAiltirí na hAiséirghe (1942–1958)
Spouse(s)Síle Ní Chochláin

Early life and education

John Gerald Cunningham was born on 2 January 1910, to John Cunningham, a restaurant manager, and Catherine (Kate) McMahon, of 31 Sandhurst Gardens in the Stranmillis district of Belfast.[3] His father was from County Armagh and his mother, who could speak Irish, from County Down.[4]

He attended St. Malachy's Christian Brothers School. He gained third place nationwise in the Irish civil service examinations in 1927 and earned matriculation to Queen's University Belfast. However he rejected an offer by his father to finance his university studies and instead accepted an appointment in the Irish Department of Finance, being posted in Athlone. There he made the acquaintance of Patrick Lenihan, one of his former teachers at St. Malachy's. Inspired by Lenihan, a cultural nationalist, he changed his name from Gerald Cunningham to its Gaelic form Gearóid Ó Cuinneagáin.[5]

Ó Cuinneagáin was later posted to Castlebar and Dublin and was appointed Junior Executive Officer in the Department of Defence. In 1932 he requested three-months unpaid leave to attend an Irish language immersion programme in Ranafast but was turned down. In response he resigned in July and spent the following year in Ranafast, emerging a fluent Irish speaker.[6][7]

Ó Cuinneagáin's command of the language earned him a position in 1933 as an editorial writer of the Republican Congress's Irish language newspaper An tÉireannach, publishing some of the articles under the pseudonym "Immaculate Virgin". After some months however he resigned, seeking a more reliable form of income and possibly coming to disagree with the newspaper's socialist views. In 1937 he became a partner in a small tax-consulting venture, Ó Cuinneagáin & Cooke.[8]

Pro-Axis underground

In 1937 he wrote an article in the Wolfe Tone Weekly calling for an alliance between Ireland and Italy against their enemy the United Kingdom.[1] He called for the initiation of a large-scale military build-up, hoping that the power of a strong Ireland combined with the influence of the Irish diaspora might sway Mussolini to assist the Irish cause.[9] At this point however Ó Cuinneagáin was not yet a fascist, stating in the article that Ireland need not be a fascist state and instead envisioning Ireland as a democratic republic based on the United States with an economic programme inspired by Roosevelt's New Deal.[10]

In 1939, recognising that war between Britain and Germany was imminent, he called on Irish people to "make use of this other great danger facing England to benefit our country".[11] In an unpublished manifesto written in Spring 1940 "Ireland a Missionary-Ideological State?" he advocated the establishment of a corporative state which would combine faith and modernity, rejecting the "materialism" of capitalism and communism.[12]

In 1940 Ó Cuinneagáin was involved in the establishment of Clann na Saoirse, an organisation connected to the pro-Axis organisations Irish Friends of Germany and Cumann Náisiúnta formed by Easter Rising veteran and former Blueshirt W.J. Brennan-Whitmore with the goal of creating a corporatist state in Ireland.[13] Ó Cuinneagáin was appointed Stiúrthóir in May and issued an eight-point programme calling for the military reclamation of Northern Ireland, pro-natalist policies, a ban on emigration, the elimination of the "pernicious influence of aliens" on Irish economic life, the establishment of a "sovereign federation" of Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany, and the prohibition of the English language.[14]

Following the discovery of Plan Kathleen the Irish government took the principal members of Clann na Saoirse, Irish Friends of Germany and Cumann Náisiúnta into custody, however Ó Cuinneagáin was not caught as his involvement was the movement was not public knowledge and the detainees were released days later after having been arrested. Irish Friends of Germany and Cumann Náisiúnta began to organise meetings planning to assist a German invasion under the cover of Irish language classes taught by Ó Cuinneagáin, however in September he announced his plans to leave the organisation to instead form a branch of Conradh na Gaeilge known as Craobh na hAiséirghe (Branch of the Resurrection) which would be "a Hitler Youth Movement under the guise of an Irish class".[15]

Two days later, Irish security forces raided the houses of members of Irish Friends of Germany and Cumann Náisiúnta, however Ó Cuinneagáin escaped arrest as the Irish authorities did not realise that "Séamus Cunningham", "Jerry Cunningham" and Gearóid Ó Cuinneagáin were the same person.[16]

Craobh na hAiséirghe

Craobh na hAiséirghe claimed to be a non-political and non-ideological organisation dedicated to the preservation of the Irish language and culture, and many of it's members had no interest in fascism. Their membership grew at a rapid rate, numbering within a year 1,200 and 1,500 adherents.[17] At Craobh na hAiséirghe's second meeting Ó Cuinneagáin was elected president of the organisation but within a few weeks changed his original title to Ceannaire, meaning "leader". Ó Cuinneagáin copper-fastened his authority and established absolute powers of direction over the organisation.[18]

He became involved with the republican party Córas na Poblachta and assumed the leadership of it's youth wing Aicéin (Action) until Aicéin's independence was terminated in February 1942. For Ó Cuinneagáin association with the party allowed him to gain recruits for Craobh na hAiséirghe and make connections with the Irish Republican Army in addition to the possibility of influencing Coras' policy ideologically.[19]

In 1941 Ó Cuinneagáin was elected to Conradh na Gaeilge's national executive, the Coiste Gnótha, but became involved in a dispute with other members of the executive over a proposed Conradh commemorative publication of the Easter Rising as Ó Cuinneagáin insisted that a member of Craobh na hAiséirghe be appointed editor of the issue. Ó Cuinneagáin's attempts to pack the leadership of Conradh failed to work as only himself and Proinsias Mac an Bheatha were elected and his two bids for presidency of Conradh na Gaeilge likewise didn't succeed.[20] Afterwards he commenced a boycott of Conradh, prohibiting Craobh delegates from participating in the Coiste Gnótha and withholding the annual fee due from the branch.[21]

On Whit weekend a commemorative convention was organised in Donaghpatrick to commemorate the founding of The Nation newspaper by Young Ireland. Ó Cuinneagáin was invited to an address in recognition of his work on behalf of the Irish language. His two-hour speech was a political one that strongly criticised Irish society and its leadership but praised the Emergency Powers Act for helping to prepare Ireland for totalitarian government. He announced the formation of a new political movement alongside Craobh na hAiséirghe to be known as Ailtirí na hAiséirghe.[22]

The speech brought to a head dissent growing at the increasingly political stance of the branch as many of the branch's members were civil servants or otherwise worked for the state which Ó Cuinneagáin now expressed his wish to overthrow. The publication of Aiseirghe 1942, which was devoted purely to laying out Ó Cuinneagáin's political vision, similar to the eight-point programme he had issued as a member of Clann na Saoirse, for his new movement exacerbated the tensions.[23]

On the 6th of November 1942 at the annual Craobh na hAiseirghe meeting, the organisation split amicably with the culturalists under Proinsias Mac an Bheatha adopting the new name of Glún na Buaidhe (Generation of Victory) and agreeing to assume Craobh na hAiséirghe's debts. In his final address as leader of the branch, Ó Cuuinneagáin pledged his co-operation with it's objectives and asked members to assist Glún na Buaidhe.[24]

Ailtirí na hAiséirghe

Ó Cuinneagáin and his movement began to hold speeches where crowds of people might be found such as pubs, cinemas, sporting events and churches as well as organise parades and Irish dancing.[25] Aiséirghe speakers would deliver a speech in Irish before switching to English, something which according to Aindrias Ó Scolaidhe aroused the curiosity of crowds.[26] Ó Cuinneagáin became a frequent speaker at campus events, even proselytising in Trinity College.[27]

Ó Cuinneagáin courted the support of Irish republicans with whom he had developed close relationships during his time in Conradh na Gaeilge and Córas na Poblachta. He was prominent in the Green Cross Fund which helped provided financial assistance to the families of republican internees and he began to arrange film screenings for and provide books, gramophone records and Aiséirghe literature to IRA internees. Several prominent IRA volunteers including Gearóid Ó Bróin, a member of the IRA Army Council, joined Ó Cuinneagáin or expressed their approval of the party.[28] G2 and MI5 began to note that Aiséirghe members often attended Sinn Féin meetings and sometimes even spoke from their platforms.[29]

The party was unprepared for the 1943 Irish general election and won no seats. In an attempt at a publicity stunt two weeks before the election Ó Cuinneagáin organised an Aiséirghe céilí in Belfast and gave a speech during it, hoping to be arrested and given press coverage as a "political prisoner". As he predicted the Royal Ulster Constabulary immediately broke up the event and took Ó Cuinneagáin into custody, however he was released forty-eight hours later denying him the press coverage he had hoped for.[30] The party's support in Northern Ireland was devastated as in the weeks as following the incident Aiséirghe members in Northern Ireland were visited by the RUC and given the choice of resigning from Aiséirghe or being interned under the Special Powers Act.[31]

American Note Crisis

In February 1944 the American Note crisis took place when the American minister to Ireland, David Gray, dispatched a communiqué to Éamon de Valera demanding the closure of legations belonging to the Axis powers in Dublin. Fearing this to be the diplomatic prelude to an invasion of Ireland by the Allies, the Irish government placed the army on high alert and rushed troops to the border. As a result the two Allied governments were forced to clarify that the communiqué had been a request rather than an ultimatum and that they had no intention of violating Irish neutrality.[32]

The Cork and Waterford organisations of Aiséirghe pledged their support for the Taoiseach in withstanding Allied pressure however to their exasperation in Dublin Ó Cuinneagáin instead used the opportunity to attack the Fianna Fáil government.[33] Dissent began to grow against Ó Cuinneagáin's leadership. Ernest Blythe, criticising Ó Cuinneagáin's skill for public speaking, suggested that Ó Cuinneagáin should resign as Ceannaire while remaining Secretary or Director of Organisation.[34] Seosamh Ó Coigligh, the leader of the Cork organisation of the party, believing that Ó Cuinneagáin's attacks on respected mainstream political leaders alienated many potential supporters from the movement, sent a letter to him on behalf of the Cork executive harshly criticising his attacks on the government and his revanchism which he perceived caused Aiséirghe to be regarded as merely an appendage of the IRA and Sinn Féin.[35]

De Valera's prestige soared as a result of the crisis which he took advantage of by calling a general election in May. Despite clear signs that the election would result in a sweeping victory for Fianna Fáil and the party suffering financial issues Ó Cuinneagáin was determined that Aiséirghe should run candidates.[36] The party again failed to gain any seats in the 1944 Irish general election.


The end of the war resulted in the lifting of the Emergency Powers Act which allowed Aiséirghe to place its programme before the public without censorship. In addition during the 1945 Irish local elections effort was put into preparing for the polls and addressing local concerns by constituents.[37] As a result Aiséirghe candidates won nine seats, however with the exception of Louth their gains were confined to Munster, showcasing the gaps in their national organisation.[1][38]

Throughout the second half of 1945 Ó Cuinneagáin depicted the result of the elections as a success for Aiséirghe. For many in the party such as Tómas Ó Dochartaigh the election's result showed that the party had potential for success with a more moderate and less dictatorial leader open to building bridges with mainstream parties and politicians at the helm.[1][39] In August Ó Dochartaigh and Seán Ó hUrmoltaigh met with Ó Cuinneagáin laying out their complaints which he dismissed as being trivial matters. Following an ignored request for a party executive meeting Ó Dochartaigh threatened to host an executive meeting without Ó Cuinneagáin's permission. In response Ó Cuinneagáin suspended Ó Dochartaigh and Ó hUrmoltaigh from the movement for insubordination.[40]

The party executive censured Ó Cuinneagáin at a meeting in September for exceeding his authority by suspending Ó Dochartaigh and Ó hUrmoltaigh, and reinstated the latter. Ó Cuinneagáin responded by dismissing Ó Coigligh and Muiris Mac Gearailt, the head of the Tipperary organisation, from their positions a week after the meeting.[41] Dissidents in the movement lead by officers of the Cork City branch nominated Riobárd Breathnach for a new Ceannaire.[42]

At a party convention held in October a vote was held with twenty two officials backing Ó Cuinneagáin's continued leadership and thirteen supporting Riobárd Breathnach in addition to one abstention and one spoiled ballot. Following the vote Tómas Ó Dochartaigh and the entire Cork delegation resigned.[43] The split was a devastating blow for the party which caused many of Aiséirghe's supporters in Munster to resign in solidarity.[44] The rise of Clann na Poblachta resulted in further defections.[45] Ó Cuinneagáin was dismissive of the threat posed to Aiséirghe by the new party and viewed their rise in popularity as a passing phase.[46] The 1948 Irish general election saw Aiséirghe gain no seats while Clann na Poblachta gained ten.

Noting the dire state of the party organisation and morale Ó Cuinneagáin tried once more to gain publicity by antagonising Stormont. On the 13th and 14th of May 1949 Aiséirghe members put up posters saying "Arm Now to Take The North" in Dublin and other large towns. The Gardaí responded by tearing down the posters which only resulted in further attention being drawn to the spectacle.[47] However Ó Cuinneagáin was unable to follow up on his call to action and ultimately many of the followers he had briefly gotten from the incident went away disillusioned.[48] The party's collapse continued unabated and by 1950 it was all but defunct.

Later life

Ó Cuinneagáin sparked a minor diplomatic incident in 1950 when in reaction to a tour of the United States and Canada by Basil Brooke his newspaper offered a £1,000 reward for Brooke's capture. Patrick Gordon Walker summoned the Irish ambassador to launch a protest on behalf of the British government.[49]

Despite the decline of his party throughout the 50s and 60s sales of his newspaper Aiséirí remained strong, continuing to criticise the Irish government's language policies, party politics and foreign cultural influences. He also expressed an interest in technological advances and pointed ways in which they could be used to assist an Irish cultural and economic revival. In 1954 Ó Cuinneagáin launched the first Irish-language women's magazine, Deirdre.

He became favorable to the idea of a federal Europe and supported Irish entry into the European Economic Community. He welcomed the upswing in nationalism caused by the Troubles but deplored that unity was left to a paramilitary instead of the Irish government. He continued to publish Aiséirí until 1975 when he discontinued the journal due to being unable to pay the costs for publication.[50] Despite this, Ó Cuinneagáin never abandoned his ideological convictions and in 1990 shortly before his death he startled Risteárd Ó Glaisne by saying "You think we're all washed up. We're not. You wait and see - our day is coming."[51]


  1. ^ a b c d
  2. ^ Political parties in the Republic of Ireland by Michael Gallagher. Manchester University Press ND, 1985, ISBN 0-7190-1742-4, (p.107-9).
  3. ^ "General Registrar's Office" (PDF). Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  4. ^ "National Archives: Census of Ireland 1911". Retrieved 2019-05-08.
  5. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 60
  6. ^
  7. ^ Martin White, The Greenshirts: Fascism in the Irish Free State, 1935-45, p. 257
  8. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 61
  9. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 34
  10. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 64
  11. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 62
  12. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 63
  13. ^ R. M. Douglas, The Historical Journal Vol. 49, No. 4 (2006), p. 1161
  14. ^ R. M. Douglas, The Historical Journal Vol. 49, No. 4 (2006), p. 1162
  15. ^ Martin White, The Greenshirts: Fascism in the Irish Free State, 1935-45, p. 256
  16. ^ R. M. Douglas, The Historical Journal Vol. 49, No. 4 (2006), p. 1169
  17. ^ R. M. Douglas, The Historical Journal Vol. 49, No. 4 (2006), p. 1175
  18. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 76
  19. ^ R. M. Douglas, The Historical Journal Vol. 49, No. 4 (2006), p. 1176
  20. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 84
  21. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 85
  22. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 86
  23. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 87
  24. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 90
  25. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 178
  26. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 176
  27. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 170
  28. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 168
  29. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 174
  30. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 189
  31. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 190
  32. ^ Caoimhe Nic Dháibhéid, Seán MacBride: A Republican Life, 1904-1946, p. 188
  33. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 208
  34. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 203
  35. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 209
  36. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 201
  37. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 224
  38. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 227
  39. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 234
  40. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 237
  41. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 238
  42. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 240
  43. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 245
  44. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 248
  45. ^ Martin White, The Greenshirts: Fascism in the Irish Free State, 1935-45, p. 261
  46. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 254
  47. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 262
  48. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 265
  49. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 278
  50. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 275
  51. ^ Douglas (2009), p. 286

Further reading

  • Douglas, R. M. Architects of the Resurrection: Ailtirí na hAiséirghe and the Fascist 'New Order' in Ireland. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007 ISBN 978-0-7190-7998-6
  • Mac Aonghusa, P. Ar Son na Gaeilge: Conradh na Gaeilge, 1893-1993. Baile Átha Cliath: Conradh na Gaeilge, 1993.
1910 in Ireland

Events from the year 1910 in Ireland.

1942 in Ireland

Events from the year 1942 in Ireland.

Ailtirí na hAiséirghe

Ailtirí na hAiséirghe (Irish pronunciation: [ˈalʲtʲi̞ɾʲiː n̪ˠə ˈhaʃeːɾʲiː], meaning "Architects of the Resurrection") was a minor radical nationalist and fascist political party in Ireland, founded by Gearóid Ó Cuinneagáin in March 1942. The party sought to form a totalitarian Irish Christian corporatist state and its sympathies were with the Axis powers in World War II. It was one of a wave of minor far right parties in 1940s Ireland, like the Monetary Reform Party, that failed to achieve mainstream success.


Aiséirí (Irish: Aiséirģe [aʃˈeːɾʲiː]; "Resurrection") was a political newspaper, published in Dublin, Ireland, from 1943 until 1973.

The newspaper was founded by Gearóid Ó Cuinneagáin as the party organ of Ailtirí na hAiséirghe. This was a minor radical nationalist and fascist political party, founded in 1942. It sought to form a totalitarian Irish Christian corporatist state. The party obtained no seats in the 1943 and 1944 general elections and gradually weakened after a split in 1945. It finished up in 1958, but the newspaper continued to be published.

Dublin North-West (Dáil constituency)

Dublin North-West is a parliamentary constituency represented in Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Irish parliament or Oireachtas. The constituency elects 3 deputies (Teachtaí Dála, commonly known as TDs). The method of election is the single transferable vote form of proportional representation (PR-STV).

Ernest Blythe

Ernest William Blythe (Irish: Earnán de Blaghd; 13 April 1889 – 23 February 1975) was an Irish journalist, managing director of the Abbey Theatre, and politician who served as Minister for Finance from 1923 to 1932, Minister for Posts and Telegraphs and Vice-President of the Executive Council from 1927 to 1932 and Minister for Local Government from 1922 to 1923. He was a Senator for the Labour Panel from 1934 to 1936. He served as a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Monaghan constituency from 1921 to 1933 and Member of Parliament (MP) for North Monaghan from 1918 to 1922.

List of Queen's University Belfast people

This is a list of Queen's University Belfast people including notable alumni and staff of Queen's University Belfast, Northern Ireland. As one of only two universities in Northern Ireland, the university has been attended by a large proportion of the nation's professionals.

This list does not include people whose only connection with the university consists in the award of an honorary degree.

List of fascist movements by country G–M

A list of political parties, organizations, and movements adhering to various forms of fascist ideology, part of the list of fascist movements by country.

Patrick Moylett

Patrick Moylett (1878–1973) was a 20th-century Irish nationalist who, during the initial armistice negotiations to end the Irish War of Independence, briefly served as president of the Irish Republican Brotherhood during late-1920. A successful businessman in County Mayo and County Galway, he was a close associate of Arthur Griffith and frequently traveled to London acting as a middleman between Sinn Féin and officials in the British government. He ran a business that was used as a front to import armaments for the cause and held that many of those that became closest associates of Éamon de Valera during the civil war rift had at one time worked for the British. Particularly that Erskine Childers despite his involvement with the Asgard and his close association with Éamon de Valera had been in the direct pay of the Admiralty Naval Intelligence Service up till 1916 before becoming secretary to the Éamon de Valera led treaty discussions.

Tomás Ó Dubhghaill

Tomás Ó Dubhghaill ([ˈt̪ˠʊmˠaːsˠoːˈd̪ˠʊwəlʲ], born Thomas (Tom) Doyle; 1917 – 12 March 1962) was President of Sinn Féin from 1952 to 1954 and a Sinn Féin vice-president until his death.

Born in Drimnagh, Dublin, Doyle was educated at St James' Christian Brothers School in James' Street, Dublin. He left school at 16, and commenced employment as a clerk in the Department of Defence. He later obtained a diploma in social and economic science at University College Dublin.

Although a civil servant, Doyle became an Irish Republican Army activist.

Having devised the plan, in December 1939 he participated in the IRA's Dublin Brigade raid of the Irish Army Magazine Fort in the Phoenix Park, when the entire stock of the Irish Army's ammunition was seized, a quantity of just over one million rounds, and removed in a dozen lorries.

In 1940, he acted as adjutant general to Stephen Hayes, IRA chief of staff. In 1943 he wrote to Gearóid Ó Cuinneagáin expressing his approval of Ó Cuinneagáin's party, the fascist Ailtirí na hAiséirghe.He was later interned for his activities, losing his position as a result. When he was released in December 1945, he became involved with the Republican Prisoners Release Association (RPRA), of which he was elected secretary in 1947, a position he held until the organisation was disbanded in 1952.

In 1948, he was elected secretary to the Sinn Féin Organising Committee and later became joint general secretary (along with Jim Russell) of Sinn Féin. In the same year, he joined the staff of the Workers' Union of Ireland.

Along with the RPRA committee, he was involved in the establishment of An Cumann Cabhrach (also known as the Republican Aid Committee) in 1953. He served as secretary of the organisation until his death in 1962.At the 1951 Sinn Féin Ard Fheis, he was elected vice-president of the party. He was president from 1952 to 1954 and, vice-president again from 1956 to 1962.In July 1957, along with the leadership of Sinn Féin, he was arrested and later interned in The Curragh.

In the 1957 Irish general election, Ó Dubhghaill stood unsuccessfully as a Sinn Féin candidate in the Dublin South-Central constituency, polling 1,734 first preferences (5.43 per cent of the valid poll). He was a candidate for the same party in the Dublin South-West by-election of 22 July 1959, when he polled 1,341 first preferences (5.37 per cent of the valid poll). His last electoral contest, again unsuccessful, was in the 1961 Irish general election, when he polled 622 votes or 1.94 percent of the valid poll.He died in St Luke's Hospital on 12 March 1962 and was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.

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