Veteran republican and first 'Irish Times' Washington correspondent dies aged 91

Thu, Mar 10, 2011, 00:00

THE FIRST Irish TimesWashington correspondent and veteran republican Seán Cronin has died in the city aged 91 after several years of illness.

A former Army officer in Southern Command during the second World War, Cronin also joined the IRA, serving as director of operations, editor of the United Irishmanand, for two periods at the end of the 1950s, as chief of staff.

He was the author of a dozen books and pamphlets, including a biography of republican Frank Ryan, Washington’s Irish Policy 1916-1986: Independence, Partition, Neutrality,an authoritative account of Irish-US relations; Our Own Red Blood about the Easter Rising of 1916;and a number of works on guerrilla strategy, including an early Sinn Féin pamphlet Resistanceunder the pseudonym of J McGarrity,

Born in Dublin in 1920 but raised in Ballinskelligs in the south Kerry Gaeltacht, he moved to the US after leaving the Army. There he became associated with the republican group Clan na Gael while a journalist in New York.

When he came back to Dublin, he worked as a subeditor in the Evening Press.

His military experience ensured a rapid rise through the ranks of the IRA and he eventually left the paper on the pretext of a job with a US news agency. In fact he was briefly on active service before he was arrested close to the Border.

He was a key strategist for the abortive Border campaign, “Operation Harvest”, in the late 1950s and spent at least two short terms in jail for his activities. After the last of them, in 1962, he emerged to find himself at the centre of internal feuding and left the organisation, returning to journalism first in Ireland and then the US.

By the late 1960s he was writing regularly as a freelance from there for The Irish Times, an association that came out of his old Army days friendship with then-editor Douglas Gageby. His erudition and encyclopaedic knowledge of US politics and Irish America was much appreciated by colleagues and readers alike, and his Washington Letter was a must-read.

He was meticulously precise as a reporter and contributed news and regular Irishman’s Diaries to the paper for 20 years. In Washington he also taught politics.

He is survived by his second wife, Reva Rubenstein Cronin.