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Posted 06 November 2014

Judging W.T. Cosgrave, the first leader of The Irish Free State

After he retired from public life, W.T. Cosgrave, the first leader of The Irish Free State remained for decades one of the forgotten figures of Irish history. According to a new biography, Judging W.T. Cosgrave, he did not deserve such neglect. Rather he deserves much of the credit for the stable and democratic political system that took root after the storms of insurrection, guerrilla conflict and civil war. "He headed the first fully independent Irish administration, and he presided over a slow but steady expansion of the freedom provided by the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921."

Using sources not previously consulted, in Judging W.T. Cosgrave, UCD Emeritus Professor Michael Laffan examines the political life of the man and gives the reader a deep sense of his career as local politician, rebel, minister, head of government for almost ten years and opposition leader.

“Professor Laffan and the Royal Irish Academy have to be congratulated on a truly wonderful book – beautifully produced to the highest publishing standards, scrupulously researched, lucidly written and with all the objectivity and the authority of a professional historian at the top of his game,” said An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny who officially launched the book at the Royal Irish Academy.

“Fifty years after Cosgrave’s death Michael Laffan has given us his magisterial, definitive and learned judgement. It will not be bettered.”

“[Cosgrave] was a great Irishman, one of our greatest, and this book is worthy of its subject,” added An Taoiseach.

According to Professor Laffan, the project involved several years of research and provided challenges as well as occasional frustration. “It has been an overwhelmingly stimulating and satisfying experience,” he said. “Above all I am grateful to Liam Cosgrave, who urged me to undertake this biography, who lent me his father’s papers and who was a source of constant information and encouragement, but who never tried to influence or control what I wrote.”


Watch W.T. Cosgrave speak "on Ireland and her status in International Affairs" in 1930 (British Pathé)

Judging W.T. Cosgrave is the third book in the 'Judging' series published by the Royal Irish Academy. The other two in the series were also written by University College Dublin academics: Judging Dev: A reassessment of the life and legacy of Éamon de Valera by Professor Diarmaid Ferriter, UCD School of History and Archives; and Judging Lemass: The Measure of the Man by Emeritus Professor Tom Garvin, UCD School of Politics and International Relations.

(Produced by UCD University Relations)


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Judging W.T. Cosgrave, the first leader of The Irish Free State
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