Identity Statement for Patricia Coghlan

  • Reference code: IE UCDA P277
  • Title: Papers of Patricia Coghlan
  • Dates: 1946–61
  • Level of description: Fonds
  • Extent: 2 boxes
  • Context
  • Content and Structure
  • Conditions of Access and Use

Biographical History

Patricia Coghlan (2 March 1914–2 July 1975) was born in Frankfort House, Upper Rathmines, Dublin. The family home was used as a safe house during the War of Independence and the Civil War and was frequented by prominent republican figures during this period. There were close ties between Frankfurt House and Roebuck House, the residence of Maud Gonne and her son, Sean MacBride. Patricia took up work at Roebuck House for a short period in the 1920s and remained a close personal friend to MacBride and his wife, Catalina ‘Kid’ Bulfin, until Patricia's death in 1975.

Sean MacBride founded Clann na Poblachta, an Irish republican political party, in 1946. The party was officially established on 6 July 1946 and held its first Ard Fheis in Balalaika, Dublin in November 1947. Clann na Poblachta was intended to become a rival republican party to Fianna Fáil but also held strong roots in social democratic policies. Patricia was employed at the party headquarters at 20 Herbert Place, Dublin, following its establishment and she continued to work there until the closure of the offices in the early 1960s.

The Clann experienced solid growth in the years immediately following its formation, aided by the fact that it was established during a period in Irish politics when the two primary parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, were relatively weak. 

Fianna Fáil had experienced a lull in public support due to problems of emigration, unemployment and poverty and these issues came to occupy the core of Clann na Poblachta's election campaigns. In October 1947, the party experienced some success, winning two by-election seats in Dublin and Tipperary. Perhaps threatened by the potential success of the Clann na Poblachta party and fearful of allowing the party to build strong grassroots support, Éamon de Valera called a general election in 1948.

Clann na Poblachta experienced less success than MacBride had anticipated, securing only 10 seats. However, Fianna Fáil did not hold enough seats to form a majority Government and Clann na Poblachta formed part of the first Inter-Party Government with Fine Gael, the Labour Party, Clann na Talmhan and a number of Independents. MacBride was appointed Minister for External Affairs and occupied the position of president of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Council of Europe in 1950. MacBride's fellow Clann TD, Dr Noel Browne, occupied the position of Minister for Health. Patricia Coghlan’s sister, Louie Coghlan-O’Brien, worked as MacBride’s personal secretary during his Ministerial appointment.

Clann na Poblachta’s success was short-lived as the coalition struggled to remain in power. Another general election was called in 1951 and Clann na Poblachta only managed to secure two seats. Following this election, a second Inter-Party Government was formed but, on this occasion, Clann na Poblachta chose not to join, with MacBride refusing to take a Ministerial position offered to him by John A. Costello. The party managed to secure three seats in the general election of 1954 but failed to gain any new momentum and their foothold was reduced to one seat 

Archival History

This collection was deposited in UCD Archives by Patricia Coghlan’s nephew, Noel Guilfoyle on 29 April 2014.

Scope and Content

Clann na Poblachta
Files of statements, reports and policy documents relating to the formation of Clann na Poblachta and the first Ard Fheis, 1946–8.
Speeches and statements made by Sean MacBride on behalf of Clann na Poblachta, primarily relating to their election campaigns in both general and by-elections, 1953–9.

Statements, pamphlets and correspondence pertaining to Clann na Poblachta's opposition campaign prior to the referendum on the proposed abolition of the Proportional Representation electoral system, 1958–9. 

Correspondence, statements and articles concerning Clann na Poblachta; documents relating to the financial affairs of the party and newspaper cuttings of speeches made by Éamon de Valera, 1947-62.

Gerard Lawless versus the Irish Government
Files of correspondence, reports, documents and newspaper cuttings concerning the legal action taken by Gerard R. Lawless against the Irish Government for his internment without trial in the Curragh Internment Camp, Curragh Military Barracks, County Kildare, 13 July–11 December 1957. The case took place in the European Court of Human Rights following a referral by the European Commission of Human Rights and Sean MacBride served as Senior Council to Mr Lawless, 1957–9.

The Cyprus Question
File of correspondence between Sean MacBride and Greek political figures, reports, memoranda and newspaper cuttings relating to the Cyprus crisis of the 1950s, 1956–61.

Sean MacBride Correspondence
Small file of correspondence concerning Sean MacBride relating to issues with statements in the press; Irish politicians; Roger Casement; and MacBride’s work with the Council of Europe, 1953–61.

  • Access: Available by appointment to holders of a UCD Archives reader's ticket. Produced for consultation in digital format.
  • Language: English
  • Finding aid: Descriptive catalogue
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