Wednesday 19 June 2019

Listen to 1916 Oral History: Liam Cosgrave on his father WT Cosgrave during the Rising

Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave recalls his father’s involvement during the Rising with the Irish Volunteers at the South Dublin Union.

He was a member of the 4th Battalion Irish Volunteers along with his brother Philip and his stepbrother, fighting in the Union and in Marrowbone Lane under Éamon Ceannt.  He had joined Sinn Féin with Philip and his uncle Pat at the inaugural meeting in 1905.

Following the surrender, William T. Cosgrave and his brother Philip were court-martialled and sentenced to death. Their sentences were later commuted. William T. was interned in Frongoch in Wales and was released under the general amnesty in January 1917.

He was elected in the by-election campaign in Kilkenny North in August 1917 and elected Sinn Féin MP.  He was re-elected in the general election of the following year and supported Michael Collins wholeheartedly. 

When the Free State was established, his father was elected President of the Executive Council.

William T. Cosgrave is recalled as a very practical person. His main task in government was to aid with the establishment of the new State. His son says that the government did a good job by promoting both agriculture and industry.

He resigned from political life some months after his son was elected a TD in 1943. W. T. Cosgrave died in November 1965 and he is buried in Goldenbridge Cemetery in Inchicore. At the time of his father’s death, Liam was leader of Fine Gael and leader of the Opposition in Dáil Éireann.

Liam Cosgrave was elected Taoiseach of the Fine Gael/ Labour Party coalition government in 1973. He retired as Dáil deputy for Dun Laoghaire in 1981.

For more from the 1916 Oral History project, go to and click here for the extended Liam Cosgrave interview.

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