O'Higgins, Kevin Christopher


O'Higgins, Kevin Christopher

▪ Irish statesman
born June 7, 1892, Stradbally, County Leix, Ire.
died July 10, 1927, Booterstown, County Dublin
 Irish statesman who attempted severe repression of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in the years of the Irish “Troubles” following the Anglo-Irish treaty of 1921. A man of intellectual power, he was described as “a soul incapable of remorse or rest” and (by William Butler Yeats) “a great man in his pride confronting murderous men.” He was in fact murdered by political enemies while on his way to church.

      Educated at University College, Dublin, O'Higgins was apprenticed to his uncle, a lawyer. Following the Easter Rising in 1916, he joined the Sinn Féin (“We Ourselves”) nationalist movement and was imprisoned. In 1918, while still in jail, he was elected to Parliament from County Leix (now County Laoighis), and in the next year he became assistant to the minister of local government, William T. Cosgrave.

      O'Higgins supported the treaty (Dec. 6, 1921) with Great Britain that created the Irish Free State. In 1922 he was appointed minister of the interior and vice president of the State Executive Council. In 1923 he was named minister for home affairs and justice. He helped to draft the Irish Free State constitution and secured its passage through the Dáil Éireann (lower house of the legislature). Working for a united Ireland within the British Commonwealth, he played an important part in the Imperial Conference of 1926. He also prominently represented the Free State in the League of Nations.

      As minister for justice, O'Higgins organized an unarmed police force known as the Civic Guards and took summary measures to restore order following the conflict between the Free State forces and the IRA. His part in the execution of 77 republicans in 1922–23 made him many enemies, as did his sardonic wit, his inflammatory speeches during the civil war, and his curtailment of the liquor trade. The assassination of O'Higgins was denounced as treason by Cosgrave, who was then the Irish prime minister.

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Universalium. 2010.

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