Grave of the first head of an independent Irish government desecrated

A Crimes Scene Investigator photographs the grave of William T Cosgrave

Ed Carty

The headstone on the grave of William T Cosgrave, he first head of an independent Irish government, has been smashed in two.

The Celtic cross erected by his family to mark the former Taoiseach's resting place in Goldenbridge, Inchicore, Dublin, was destroyed in an attack in the last two days.

Gardai in Kilmainham are investigating the vandalism.

The cemetery has been targeted by vandals in recent months and in the latest attack, discovered yesterday afternoon, other damage was done to the graveside and other graves.

The plots next to the Grand Canal are under the care of the Glasnevin Trust which said it will meet any cost of replacing the cross.

"The discovery was made by a grounds man who came on the scene yesterday afternoon," he said.

"Goldenbridge Cemetery is locked and visited by appointment only, given that there are now relatively few burials at the cemetery. The cemetery has been the target of vandalism over the past number of months and in response to this executives of the Glasnevin Trust have recently met with public representatives, Dublin City Council and the gardai to discuss the issue."

Charlie Flanagan, Foreign Affairs Minister, said the desecration "is beneath contempt".

The vandalism occurred on the eve of the launch of a new book on Mr Cosgrave's life, Judging WT Cosgrave by Michael Laffan, which was being launched by Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Mr Cosgrave was a member of Sinn Fein in his youth and joined the Irish Volunteers after its foundation in 1913.

He fought under Eamonn Ceannt in the Rising and was interned in Wales for several months before being freed under a general amnesty.

Following the War of Independence Cosgrave supported the Anglo-Irish Treaty and he went on to succeed Michael Collins as chairman of the Provisional Government and then lead the Executive Council of the Irish Free State.

Cosgrave also founded Cumann na nGaedheal and when he led the first government after elections he was credited with some of the most significant developments around the foundation of the state, among them the ESB and the unarmed Garda Siochana.

His political opponents branded him pro-British with much of the criticism borne from the bitterly divisive years which followed the signing of the treaty and the Civil War.

Cosgrave died on November 16 1965.

On his death a state funeral was arranged but the cost was covered by his son Liam, who went on to become Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach in the 1970s, and he was buried in the family plot in Inchicore.