Cathal Brugha

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Cathal Brugha
Cathal Brugha
Born Charles William St. John Burgess
18 July 1874
Dublin, Ireland
Died 7 July 1922
Dublin, Ireland
Nationality Irish (allegiance)
Anglo-Irish (background)
Known for Chief of Staff of the IRA
President of Dáil Éireann
Occupation politician, soldier, clerk
Organization Irish Republican Army
Irish Volunteers
Irish Republican Brotherhood
Gaelic League
Sinn Féin
Spouse Kathleen Kingston
Issue Ruairí Brugha
Parents Thomas Burgess & Maryanne Flynn

Charles William St. John Burgess (18 July 1874 – 7 July 1922), better known as Cathal Brugha, was an Irish political activist and soldier associated with Irish nationalism; he played a key role in the revolution which led to the independence of most of Ireland from the United Kingdom. As a member of the Irish Volunteers, Brugha took part in the Easter Rising of 1916 in Dublin and barely survived (being wounded with bullets and a grenade). Brugha then organised the Irish Republican Army of which he was Chief of Staff from 1917 to 1919, participating in both the Tan War and Irish Civil War, dying in the latter conflict.

Burgess' ancestors settled in County Carlow during the 17th century and ultimately originated from Picardy, France. It is unclear if they arrived via England or they may have been Huguenots; in any case they soon became part of the Protestant Anglo-Irish segment of society. His father Thomas was disowned by his family for marrying Burgha's mother Maryanne Flynn, a local Gaelic Catholic girl and Thomas too became a Parnellite.

Brugha joined the Gaelic League during 1899 and then became involved with the Irish Republican Brotherhood, along with the Irish Volunteers. After serving under Éamonn Ceannt during the Easter Rising, he was part of the republican faction that joined Sinn Féin and was elected as an MP for Wexford in 1918. As both de Valera and Griffith were in prison, Brugha briefly became the first president of the Dáil Éireann, since the Sinn Fein MPs did not recognise the British parliament. Brugha came into conflict with Michael Collins, as part of a rivalry for control over the IRA; Collins, despite not being Chief of Staff had more influence as a higher-ranking member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood.

Brugha was one of the leading figures who opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty and voted against it. When it narrowly passed, he gave up his post as Minister for Defence in 1922 and was succeded by Richard Mulcahy. At first Brugha attempted to disuade anti-Treatyites from attacking the new Irish Free State, but as the situation of Irish Civil War developed, he found himself participating in the Battle of Dublin in O'Connell Street on the anti-Treaty side. After the rest of his men were ordered to surrender, he continued to fight alone, sustaining a shot to the leg and later bled to death. His son Ruairí Brugha was a Fianna Fáil politician.

See also