Bob Briscoe and the Struggle for Freedom

 In History

Robert Briscoe was born in Dublin in September 1894 to Jewish Lithuanian parents and it is believed that the family name could have been Cherrick in Lithuania.  His father was a self – made man who had a number of jobs and ventures until he owned a business and was the owner of a furniture factory.  By all accounts they did very well in Dublin after coming from Lithuania.  He had a major influence on his son Bob because he was a Parnellite Nationalist and called Robert Robert Emmett Briscoe and another of his sons Wolfe Tone Emmett.

Robert went to America in 1914 and worked in a shipment company and electrical firm and also joined Clann na Gael and met Liam Mellows who would influence him to join Na Fianna Eireann on his return to Ireland in August 1917.   Michael Collins realising that he was not that well known because he was not in Ireland for the Rising, appointed him to the intelligence wing of the IRA and he was sent to Germany on arms missions. He used his knowledge of Germany and the German language to carry out this work during the 1919 – 1921 period on into the Truce months and also ran arms for the Anti – Treaty side during the Civil War.  He was very much a supporter of Dev and took the Anti-Treaty side during the Civil War.  He left Ireland for New York in the latter months of 1922 and was there until the General amnesty of 1924. 

.He was a founder member of Fianna Fail and was a TD for 38 years from 1927 to 1965 when his seat was taken by his son Ben after his retirement.   He devoted much time to the early establishment and country – wide organisation of Fianna Fail in the early years of the party.   He introduced legislation concerning money lenders during his time in the Dail and legislation to protect people in debt; this along with his work on behalf of the Jewish people during World War Two whereby he looked for Visas for Jews to get to Ireland during the atrocious years of the Second World War was his main work and achievements in Dail Eireann.  He worked tirelessly for the founding of the Jewish State during his political career and for independence for Israel.

He was elected Dublin’s first Jewish Lord Mayor in 1956 all of sixty years ago.  On St. Patrick’s Day 1957 Robert Briscoe the Lord Mayor of Dublin led the annual parade along New York’s fifth Avenue. He was also Lord Mayor of Dublin from 1961 – 62.  He did not contest the General election of 1965 and he died in May 1969 aged 74.

The Emerald Isle Immigration Centre in New York has devoted a special award in his name called the Robert Briscoe Award.  The Group celebrates the close relationship between Jewish and Irish communities in New York and honours Jewish New Yorkers who have helped support immigration in the United States.

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