On 12 August 1922, one hundred years ago today, Arthur Griffith – nationalist editor and journalist, founder of Sinn Féin, lead negotiator of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, and President of Dáil Éireann – died suddenly in Dublin, aged just 51. The following week’s edition of the ‘Connacht Tribune,’ a pro-treaty newspaper, gave the following account:
“The news of the sudden death of Arthur Griffith was learned throughout Galway on Saturday with feelings akin to dismay. A private telegram received early in the morning was not regarded as true, the people refusing to believe that another Irish leader had been snatched by the hand of death in the hour of his triumph, and at a crisis when his services are so sorely needed”.
Mr. Padraig O’Maille [Pádraic Ó Máille, 1876-1946], T.D., despatched the following telegram to Mrs. Griffith: “On behalf of the people of Galway and myself I send you sincerest sympathy on the death of your illustrious husband, and my dear friend, Arthur Griffith. – Padraig O’Maille.”
Mr. Padraig O’Maille and Dr. Dillon, a member of the Standing Committee of Sinn Fein, were close personal friends of Mr. Griffith. They were much affected on hearing of the death of the President [of Dáil Éireann], and declared that Mr. Griffith was one of the clearest thinkers and soundest guides that Ireland had produced. His death was no doubt hurried by the anxiety that seemed to be the fate of every Irish leader. Nevertheless the policy which he had so well laid would be carried on unaltered until the will of the Irish people prevailed in their own land. He hoped that over his grave those who wanted to wreck all our hopes and plunge us into another generation of strife would pause.
Galway Employers’ Federation, at a specially-convened meeting on Tuesday, decided spontaneously to close all shops on Wednesday during the period of the funeral as a mark of respect to the memory of President Griffith. The action was taken quite voluntarily, and without any suggestion from any source. In this respect it was in striking contrast with the compulsory closings first introduced by the Auxiliaries and Black-and-Tans, and imitated, on occasion, since their departure.
Arthur Griffith was the symbol of freedom for every man and woman within the Irish nation, and it was as such that his memory was spontaneously honoured. Prayers for the happy repose of the soul of the dead President were said at most of the city churches on Sunday and Tuesday.”
In the following days, Galway Urban District Council adjourned its meeting as a mark of respect to the memory of the late President and appointed Dr Thomas Walsh, chairman of the Urban Council and professor of pathology at UCG, and Martin J. Cooke, vice-chairman of the Urban Council, to represent the citizens of Galway at the funeral.
The Galway writer, Pádraic Ó Conaire, wrote an obituary for Griffith, which was published in ‘The Free State’ newspaper on 2 September 1922. In translation, it concluded: “I would like to chronicle his writing and assess his literature. I would like to interpret his economic philosophy and his opinion on the place of the workers in the state. I would like to acknowledge his decorum and manners in the company of friends, his funny sense of humour and how friendly he was, but I would fill the entire paper in order to do him justice. Only one thing needs saying: this country lost one of the noblest men ever born here, and the most far-sighted leader it has ever had, when the great Arthur Griffith was laid to rest.”
For more on Galway’s revolutionary period visit Revolution in Galway, 1913-1923.