Arthur Griffith (1871-1922) was an important Irish nationalist, author, and political theorist, who played a key role in achieving Irish independence. He was born on 31 March 1872 in Dublin. He followed his father into the printing trade, working with the Irish Independent and The Nation. He was influenced by Charles Stewart Parnell, Thomas Davis and John Mitchel. He edited the United Irishman from 1898, writing editorials urging Irish people to work towards self-government. He founded Cumann na nGaedhael in 1900 to promote Gaelic culture in Ireland and oppose the Anglicisation of Irish culture.
One of Griffith’s most well-known pieces of writing was a pamphlet entitled The Resurrection of Hungary: A Parallel for Ireland, in which he set forth his ideas for Irish independence under a dual monarchy, similar to Austria-Hungary. He set up Sinn Féin in 1905, which was an umbrella organisation for all types of Irish nationalism, apart from the Home Rule movement. He also set up a newspaper of the same name in 1906, when the United Irishman ceased publication due to a libel action.
Griffith joined the Irish Volunteers in 1912. Although not involved in the 1916 Rising, he was imprisoned with those who fought, due to the government’s perception that his writings encouraged nationalist fervour. In 1917, Griffith stood down as President of Sinn Féin, allowing de Valera to take his place.
Griffith followed a policy of absenteeism from Westminster, along with other elected Sinn Féin politicians. He was elected to the first Dáil in 1919 and was elected vice-president of the Republic. He was acting head during de Valera’s time in the United States from June 1919 to the end of 1920. At this time, the War of Independence was taking place in Ireland. After the truce in July 1921, Griffith led the Irish delegation in London. This resulted in the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 6 December 1921, which established Ireland as a self-governing Free State within the British Commonwealth. Griffith defended the Treaty in Dáil debates, while de Valera opposed it and resigned as President. Griffith replaced de Valera as President of the Dáil. A bitter civil war was to follow, and Griffith did not survive to see Ireland in a peaceful state. He died of a brain haemorrhage, some say a broken heart, in Dublin on 12 August 1922 and was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.