WT Cosgrave’s 1928 hero’s welcome in US recalled at summer school
Former taoiseach Liam Cosgrave (93) addresses audience
Forner taoiseach Liam Cosgrave with Nuala Harrington Jordan, who’s grandfather was lord mayor of Dublin from 1901 to 1903, at the Parnell Summer School in Avondale house, Co Wicklow yesterday. Photograph: Garry O’Neill
The visit of WT Cosgrave to North America as president of the Irish Free State’s executive council in 1928 was recalled with laughter and the telling of political anecdotes yesterday by his son, former taoiseach Liam Cosgrave (93).
Speaking at the Parnell Summer School in Co Wicklow, Mr Cosgrave said his family was closely connected with the Irish-American diaspora. He recalled how his father used to say he had more relatives in America than in Ireland, but he quipped: “That wouldn’t be particularly hard now because we have so very few left.”
Mr Cosgrave also spoke of how his grandmother, WT Cosgrave’s mother, had gone to the United States, along with her three sisters and four brothers. With humour the former taoiseach recounted how “my grandmother told me she went there when she was, I think 16, and she was a little surprised to see a black man, and got slightly frightened”.
Mr Cosgrave thanked DCU lecturer Colum Kenny for a detailed account of the visit of a number of Irish leaders to the United States, from CS Parnell to Enda Kenny, particularly focusing on the visit of WT Cosgrave, but also including Liam Cosgrave’s own visit as taoiseach in 1976.
Praising Mr Kenny’s “remarkable” research, he said: “Listening to the eloquence, the detail . . . one thought struck me: it is a good job we weren’t all there together.”
Mr Cosgrave said he had grown up knowing the families of many Irish-Americans who invited his father, as president of the executive council, to the United States. He said it was “quite extraordinary” how many children or grandchildren of emigrants returned to Ireland.
Mr Kenny said WT Cosgrave had been treated as something of a hero on his visit, as he was the first leader of a free Irish State.
He recalled how both Parnell and WT Cosgrave had been involved in train crashes in North America. Cosgrave had earned great respect for wading through deep snow to tend to the injured and to pray over the body of the dead train driver.
The Parnell Summer School continues tomorrow.