Cosgrave, W. T.

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Cosgrave, W. T. (1880–1965). President of Executive Council 1922–32, Cosgrave is the least remembered and least colourful of leading politicians of the Irish revolutionary era. He had considerable experience in Dublin corporation before becoming a Sinn Fein MP in 1917, and minister of local government in the Dáil administration of 1919–21. His vote enabled the Anglo-Irish treaty to be accepted by the Dáil cabinet in December 1921. In August 1922, the darkest hour of the civil war, he replaced Michael Collins as leader of the Free State and provided much-needed stability. Cosgrave governed along conservative social and economic lines and his party, Cumann na nGaedheal, then Fine Gael, showed no capacity for winning popular nation-wide support. In 1932, defeated by de Valera and Fianna Fail, he became an ineffective political figure, finally resigning the leadership in 1943. His son Liam, Taoiseach 1973–7, shared many of his father's unheroic characteristics.

Michael Hopkinson