Frank Mac Dermot, Author, Politican, His ArchiveFrank MacDermot (1886-1975): Frank MacDermot was the youngest son of Hugh Hyacinth MacDermot, Prince of Coolavin, a distinguished lawyer who served under Gladstone as Solicitor General for Ireland in 1886 and Attorney General for Ireland in 1892-95. He grew up fully aware of his Gaelic heritage, his Catholic faith, and his family’s involvement with the law and politics. Throughout his life h
e was committed to the cause of a self-governing, thirty-two-county Ireland, and was prepared to steer his own route towards that goal.
In 1910 he joined the United Irish League of William O’Brien, which aimed to solve Ireland’s problems by bringing together parties of all opinions. He campaigned on behalf of Home Rule, and was a member of the Liberal Party’s Home Rule Committee. He served with distinction during the Great War, ending with the rank of major. His reaction on learning of the 1916 Rising was that it scuppered any chance of achieving a united Irish state.
In 1932 he was elected an Independent TD for Roscommon. He was a founder of the Centre Party, which coalesced with Cumann na nGaedeal to form the United Ireland Party. He initially supported General O’Duffy as leader of the new Fine Gael Party, but soon withdrew his allegiance as O’Duffy’s eccentricities became more apparent. He also resigned from Fine Gael when it attacked de Valera for supporting the League of Nations sanctions against Italy following Mussolini’s invasion of Abyssinia.
In 1937 MacDermot played a major part in the debates on the new constitution. A rapprochement with de Valera followed, and was one of the Taoiseach’s nominees to the new Seanad Éireann in 1938. He opposed Ireland’s neutrality during the War, claiming that it was in the country’s best interests to support the Allies and that the victorious Nazis would not hesitate to snuff out an independent Irish state. He resigned as a senator in 1942 and lived for the next few years in New York. Thereafter he played little part in Irish affairs, living mostly in Paris until his death at the age of 89.
His views, for so long derided as old-fashioned, have been justified by time – in particular, his disapproval of the increasingly narrow Catholicism of the new state, his pursuit of social justice for minorities, and his firm belief that the “Irish Question” would only be resolved by involving all parties, North and South.
The Archive contains the following:
Typescript: “The Maidstone Trials”
Carbon copy of typescript of article entitled “The Maidstone Trials of 1798: an insight into Franco-Irish relations 1797-1798.”
The article comprises an account of the conspiracies of the United Irishmen and others, their relations with the French revolutionaries, and the British government’s awareness of these.
Author’s name not given; it was not Frank MacDermot as he is acknowledged in footnote 69, his name being mis-spelt. The date must be between 1966 (MacDermot’s article on Arthur O’Connor, cited in footnote 65) and MacDermot’s death in 1975.
Reviews of Frank MacDermot’s biography of Wolfe Tone (1939)
“Press cuttings.” An album containing press reviews and correspondence relating to MacDermot’s book Theobald Wolfe Tone: A Biography (London, Macmillan, 1939).
Typed list of contents clipped into front.
There are approximately twenty reviews, including some by distinguished columnists of the time. These include Harold Nicolson, Desmond MacCarthy, Stephen and Denis Gwynn, Desmond Ryan, Constantia Maxwell, P.S. O’Hegarty, R.B. McDowell, Robert Lynd, Robert Speaight, Robert Noakes and others.
There are thirteen letters. The correspondents include J.L. Maffey (UK representative to “Éire”), Sir Shane Leslie, Michael Browne Bishop of Galway, T. W. Moody, and Dan Breen (requesting that MacDermot sign his copy). Some were eminent historians of the day, though less well known now, such as Sir Patrick Cadell, Humphrey Sumner, J. Chartres Molony, and R.H. Hodgkin.
“Ireland and the War”, 1941-1942
· Article by Frank MacDermot entitled “Ireland and the War” published in The Saturday Evening Post, 29 November 1941 (the last issue, as it turned out, before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into the War).
· Cassette tape recording of broadcast made by Frank MacDermot in the USA in 1942 entitled “Ireland and the War” (supplementing his article on this subject in the Saturday Evening Post). He maintains that it is time “Éire” joined the war on the side of the Allies, and is at pains to point out the disastrous consequences to Ireland as a whole if Germany were to inflict significant damage on Britain. Quality of tape not good, but the speech is repeated several times – and what a treat to hear the voice of a significant Irish politician more than seventy years later.
Sir Roger Casement and his diaries (12 items, mainly 1956-57))
Casement was put on trial for high treason in 1916. While the case against him was strong, he had powerful supporters and there were pleas for clemency. However, the British Government circulated privately diaries said to be written by Casement, which contained many detailed references to homosexual acts. The prevailing attitude to homosexuality among the British Establishment, and revulsion against the nature of the acts described, alienated much liberal opinion, and Casement was duly hanged. The diaries were then withdrawn and access to them was prohibited.
Irish nationalists stoutly maintained that the diaries were forged by the Government in order to secure Casement’s conviction. Others claimed that they were genuine, and the controversy still rages today in spite of many biographical studies. It is generally agreed that the Government’s use of the diaries at his trial was reprehensible.
Frank MacDermot’s view was, as usual, balanced and articulate – a plea for information and justice. In 1937 he raised a question in the Dáil requesting that de Valera should ask the UK Government for an inquiry; Dev refused.
In 1956-7 the matter flared up again, with the publication of conflicting biographies by the English journalist René McColl, the Irish nationalist historian Herbert Mackey, and the poet Alfred Noyes, with contributions from H. Montgomery Hyde, the Ulster MP and historian of homosexuality in Britain.
This file contains original letters, copy letters, news cuttings of letters, book reviews and an extract from Hansard relating to the Casement controversy. The writers include Frank MacDermot, Sir Shane Leslie, Ralph Partridge, Montgomery Hyde, Letitia Fairfield, René McColl, Herbert Mackey and others.
Miscellaneous letters to Frank MacDermot (27 items, 1910-1973)
A file of miscellaneous letters written to Frank MacDermot, and associated material. Includes:
· His membership card of the United Irish League, 1910.
· 3 letters from H.B. Lees Smith (Liberal MP and supporter of Asquith; subsequently a Labour government minister), on MacDermot’s support for the Home Rule Bill (1913).
· 2 threatening letters sent to MacDermot by Irish-Americans denouncing his stand on national issues in the Dáil and in the USA (1932): “It is just such BASTARDS as you that have destroyed Ireland.”
· Letters congratulating MacDermot on his speeches on the national issue and in particular his denunciations of the “narrow insular policy” of de Valera (1933-35). The correspondents include [Sir] Shane Leslie and John J. Horgan of Cork.
· A letter from de Valera condoling with MacDermot on the death of his sister (1934).
· Letters from Americans appreciative of MacDermot’s article and speeches on Ireland and The War (1941).
· Letters re Pamela (wife of Lord Edward FitzGerald) and the exiled French royals, 1804-06; original letters of Arthur O’Connor and the United Irishmen in France; and (from Lady Longford) her biography of the Duke of Wellington.
Articles on Frank MacDermot by Michael McInerney, and obituaries
“The Lost Dimension: A profile of Frank MacDermot”, by Michael McInerney, was a detailed appraisal of MacDermot’s contribution to Irish affairs. It appeared in five instalments in The Irish Times in January 1974, a year before his death.
The file also contains a letter from McInerney to MacDermot, and several newspaper obituaries, including a perceptive appreciation by Terence de Vere White.
World War One Medals Mc Dermott’s Medal Set and Miniatures, together with the associated Certificates. As a collection, w.a.f. (1)