independent

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Keelan contributes to book about Aiken

Anne Campbell

Published 21/05/2014 | 05:20

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Cllr. Conor Keelan with a copy of ‘Frank Aiken: Nationalist and Internationalist’, in which he wrote a chapter examining Aiken’s three years as Minister for Finance.

A DUNDALK Fianna Fail councillor has contributed to a new book on former minister Frank Aiken.

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Cllr. Conor Keelan is one of a number of contributors to the book, Frank Aiken: Nationalist and Internationalist, which is edited by Bryce Evans and Stephen Kelly and published this week by the Irish Academic Press.

The book's chapters focus on various aspects of the South Armagh native's life, including Aiken's early life, his time in the IRA and his journey to government and to representing Ireland on the international stage, particularly in the UN.

Cllr. Keelan, who has a PhD in Economics from Trinity College Dublin, researched and wrote about Aiken's short time as minister for finance for three years from 1945.

Speaking to The Argus, Cllr. Keelan said he was 'delighted and honoured' to be asked to contribute to the book which sheds more light on the man that many in Fianna Fail regard as a hero.

He said: 'About 18 months ago, I was talking to Bryce Evans about his book on Sean Lemass and passing on my own observations and we got talking about Frank Aiken.

'The offer to contribute really came out of the blue. While I was aware of the history of Fianna Fail nationally and here in County Louth, I hadn't studied Aiken as Minister for Finance before.

'Very little had been written about this aspect of his career as most of the research had focused on his time as a military figure and defence minister so his contribution to economics was generally overlooked.

'It was new territory and I spent several weeks in the UCD archives. It is quite a large archive that Aiken left and it is a real Aladdin's Cave of information about him'.

As Cllr. Keelan's research shows, the appointment of Aiken to finance by leader Eamon de Valera came as a real surprise to many in the media.

Aiken was left, like many other finance ministers in post-war Europe, battling outside pressures in an effort to improve people's lives.

Aiken, according to Cllr. Keelan, believed that Ireland's economic wealth and future lay in the development of its farming and its natural resources, particularly peat, and he founded Bord na Mona.

But the bleak winter of 1946 led to a harvest failure and a hike in oil prices meant that Aiken had to introduce a budget in 1947 that taxed everything from white bread and drink and made the Fianna Fail government very unpopular.

Cllr. Keelan also revealed how Aiken's attempts to overhaul the banking system and increase the powers of the Central Bank were thwarted by powerful civil servants.

Frank Aiken Nationalist and Internationalist is on sale now priced €25.

The Argus

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