Diarmaid L. Fawsitt Archive Section 1 Desc. List.

Descriptive List of the Personal Archive of Diarmaid L. Fawsitt


was simultaneously admitted to the IRB and on 14 December 1913 was a founder member, alongside J.J. Walsh, Liam de Róiste, Maurice O’Connor and others, of the Cork City corps of the Volunteers at City Hall, subsequently headquartered at Fisher St., off Patrick St and later at Sheare’s Street. He thus became comprehensively involved in the national independence movement, familiar with its economic, cultural, and political branches and with its leading figures. In 1918 he went to New York to work in the tinderbox of Irish-American politics, where complex intra-nationalist rivalry threatened to damage republican support. In the summer of 1919, as Dáil Éireann established its shadow government to supplant the official British system in Ireland and the IRA launched its armed campaign, he was appointed first consul-general of the Irish Republic in the USA. Based in New York, he worked closely with Eamon de Valera, who was campaigning in 1919–20 to raise a republican loan in America. Admittedly, neither the Irish Republic nor its representatives were recognised by the US government, and the British shared with the American establishment an attitude of amusement and hostility as the Irish strove amid internal divisions to act as a sovereign power. Wisely, Fawsitt did not issue Irish passports, as the symbolic sovereignty of the Irish Republic abroad carried more credibility than a document which at best might be viewed as a curiosity. Fawsitt’s value as a diplomat in New York lay in liaison, public relations, and intelligence-gathering, and because of his long experience in commerce and shipping de Valera made him a trade representative travelling between America and Europe. He was articulate and polished, if also at times impatient and meticulous to the point of vanity, causing friction with his own compatriots if not with those Americans he sought to impress as Ireland’s ambassador abroad. According to the memoirs of his successor, Joseph Connolly, the Irish mission in New York gained enough local respect in the revolutionary period to be appreciated by all but the most pro-British of Americans. Fawsitt dealt at times with personal and domestic issues brought by Irish-Americans or immigrants lacking educated knowledge of legal and financial procedure. Every favour was invaluable currency in winning political support. Inevitably, however, he became drawn into the factional problems of Irish America, as much personal as policy-driven: when republican loan director and fellow trade representative James O’Mara fell out with Fawsitt over matters of precedence it was Harry Boland, republican political envoy to the US, who temporarily restored civility between them. If Boland favoured O’Mara, de Valera supported Fawsitt, who in turn resented Boland. Fawsitt testified at the late sessions of the American commission on conditions in Ireland, held between November 1920 and January 1921 to keep the public’s attention focused on the war while the Irish- American factions remained deadlocked. The British, although invited, remained aloof, leaving the commission open to charges of over-accommodating Irish republicans, some of whom travelled from Ireland to describe British atrocities. The commission’s final report was largely defused by the Anglo–Irish truce of 11 July 1921, after which Diarmaid Fawsitt was recalled to serve with the Irish delegation that negotiated the Anglo–Irish Treaty of 6 December. He was appointed as Technical Secretary/Advisor to Robert Barton TD, the Minister for Agriculture and Minister of Economic Affairs, in October 1921. As Barton’s advisor, Fawsitt was present at the

Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations in London until November 1921, when he was recalled to Dublin and despatched by the Cabinet on a special mission to report on economic conditions in Belfast. Fawsitt supported the Treaty and was appointed acting secretary to the Provisional Government’s department of economic affairs in January 1922. He spent some time in London, reporting back in March to Michael Collins about responses to the Treaty among the Irish in Britain, and on the Irish representative Art Ó Briain, whose opposition was suspected and later confirmed. Subsumed into the Department of Industry and Commerce in the revised ministry of August 1922, Fawsitt became assistant secretary of the department and was on the committee formed in September to create the pro-treaty Cumann na nGaedheal political party. In this position he played a role in developing the scheme for compensation and reconstruction following the burning of Cork in December 1920 and was also responsible for establishing the future management of naval facilities transferred by the British authorities at Haulbowline, Cork Lower Harbour. Unhappy with his subordinate administrative position, he took offence at the appointment of Gordon Campbell, son of the unionist Lord Glenavy, as departmental secretary. Fawsitt was understandably discommoded by this arrangement, but his intemperate reaction marked him as a potential dissenter. With the establishment of the Irish Free State in December 1922 he remained in office until August 1923, when an internal squabble on a trade mission to America became the catalyst for his dismissal. In political terms Fawsitt was a supporter of the Anglo-Irish Treaty and was a member of the General Council of Cumann na nGaedheal in May 1923. Despite being selected to stand as a pro-Treaty election candidate for Cork city during this period, Fawsitt would later identify with the Fianna Fáil party. After his career in the civil service, Fawsitt worked as an Inspector for the Irish Industrial Development Association (Incorporated), Dublin. Fawsitt became proprietor of a tobacconist’s shop on Dame St., Dublin, and studied law, qualifying at the Kings’ Inns final examination in October 1927. He was called to the bar in 1928 and took silk in 1938. An acting circuit court judge from 1941, he was fully appointed in June 1943 to the Eastern circuit and had a distinguished career, being especially sympathetic towards the poor, whose economic plight often resembled that of the petitioners from his New York days. He retired in May 1956. Fawsitt was a close associate of butter merchant James Charles (J.C.) Dowdall (1873- 1939) of Dowdall O’Mahoney Ltd, himself a founding member of the Cork Industrial Development Association, and a Fianna Fáil senator in Seanad Éireann. The Fawsitt family lived at a number of properties in Cork in the 1910s before settling at a property known as ‘St Petroc’ at Stillorgan in County Dublin. Died 27 April 1967 aged 83 at St Joseph’s nursing home, Kilcroney, Bray, Co. Wicklow, and was buried in St Fintan’s cemetery, Sutton, Co. Dublin. He married (1 October 1911) Catherine Mary, daughter of William Kenny, builder, of Fethard, Co. Tipperary; she predeceased him. Three of their sons entered the legal profession: Seán became a barrister and circuit court judge while Boyle and Kevin became solicitors.



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