Back to Top

 Skip navigation

Arthur Griffith

Open in Excel:

Arthur Griffith

Aged 39 at the time of the Census 1911

Photo of Arthur Griffith

Photo: Arthur Griffith

Census 1911 Address: 136, in St. Joseph's Crescent (Glasnevin, Dublin)1

The 1911 Census return shows Art Ó Griobhtha (39) and his wife Máire bean Uí Griobhtha (33) living in Glasnevin. The return is in Irish and the enumerator translated that Griffith’s occupation as “Editor”.

Arthur Griffith was born in Dublin in 1871 and trained as a printer. He went to South Africa when he was in his mid-twenties but was asked by his friend William Roony to return and edit a weekly newspaper called “United Irishmen”. The newspaper made an impact due to Arthur as he could be an inspired journalist. Griffith objected to the use of force, not on a point of principle, but because he believed that force wasn’t practical. Griffith was a member of the IRB and, while not within its inner circle, was quite close to revolutionary nationalists. In 1910, Griffith married his fiancée, Maud Sheehan, and they later had a son and a daughter. According to Hibbs, “Griffith lived in digs around North Strand but when Griffith married (Maud), some of the secret organisations started a movement to provide him with a home2”.

Griffith was interested in cultural nationalism and he wanted his fellow Irishmen to recover their self-respect and to enjoy their language, literature and history. He was interested in forming an organisation that would bring all the scattered literary and political groups together. His popularity began to grow as he campaigned against British conscription in Ireland.

Griffith believed that real independence would have to be economic as well as political and that Ireland would never be independent as long as it depended on England for the bulk of its manufacturing. He founded Sinn Féin (Ourselves) which had economic ideals and the elected members agreed to abstain from Westminster and instead establish a separate Irish parliament in Dublin, (with an administrative system based on local government).

In 1907 Sinn Féin unsuccessfully contested a by-election in North Leitrim. Sinn Féin was being infiltrated by the IRB who saw it as a vehicle for their aims. Griffith was one of those sent out before Easter Sunday with MacNeill’s countermanding order “The couriers who were sent out by MacNeill on Easter Sunday morning with the countermanding order were as follow: Tullamore Arthur Griffith, Limerick The O'Rahilly, Cork Dr. J. Ryan, Dundalk and Coalisland Colm Ó’Lochlainn and Waterford Seán Fitzgibbon4".

Griffith was moved by the heroism of the rebels during the fighting and wanted to join them but was asked by the leaders not to as it was felt his propaganda skills in the future would be of greater value. After the Rising he was arrested and imprisoned but he was released at the end of 1916.

After the Rising the rebellion was widely described both by British politicians and the Irish and British media as the "Sinn Féin rebellion" even though Sinn Féin had very limited involvement. In 1917 the surviving leaders of the rebellion were released from gaol and they joined Sinn Féin and used it as a vehicle for the advancement of the republic. At the Sinn Féin Ard-Fheis in 1917 de Valera was elected President of Sinn Féin.

Griffith was elected as a Sinn Féin MP in the East Cavan by-election in June 1918. He held the seat in the 1918 General Election and he was also returned for the seat of Tyrone North West. Sinn Féin MPs refused to take their seats in the British House of Commons. In 1919, 27 Sinn Féin MP’s assembled in the Mansion House in Dublin and formed the first Dáil Éireann. Cathal Brugha was elected as its first President. The Dáil was declared illegal by the British in September 1919 which subsequently led to the War of Independence. De Valera went to America for 18 months to seek financial and political support for an independent Ireland. During de Valera’s absence, Griffith served as Acting President, a role which then went to 29 year old Michael Collins when Griffith was arrested in 1920. Griffith was subsequently released in 1921 and was sent by de Valera to negotiate a Treaty with the British government. Worn out from the stress and sheer exhaustion, Griffith died in 1922, not long before Michael Collins was killed in an ambush at Béal na Bláth during the Irish Civil War.


  2. Bureau of Military History Witness Statement: Harry C. Phibbs, 30 West Washington St., Chicago 2, Illinois, U.S.A. pg. 15
  3. Ireland Since the Famine F.S.L. Lyons pg. 286
  4. Bureau of Military History Witness Statements: Colm O’Lochlainn pg. 8

Go to Cathal Brugha