Eggs thrown at finance minister: From the Archives: March 28th, 1927

Ernest Blythe, the Irish Free State minister for finance, touched on familiar themes as well as on recent events at a public meeting in his Monaghan constituency during a general-election campaign less than five years after the Civil War

The Free State Minister for Finance (Mr. E. Blythe) was subjected to a continuous fire of interruptions and heckling when he was addressing a meeting of his constituents at Magheracloon, County Monaghan, yesterday.

It was apparent at the opening of the meeting that a small section of the gathering came prepared to interrupt, and throughout the meeting there were frequent shouts of “Up de Valera”. At one period, three or four eggs were thrown at the Minister but none hit him. Civic Guards then intervened and there was a rather amusing sequel. As the Guards went towards the interrupters, so did a portion of the crowd, and the pressure became so great that the eggs with which their pockets were filled were squashed.

Mr. Blythe, who was received with cries of “Up de Valera” and a great deal of boohing, said that they need not talk about de Valera or his Party, because he did not think that party was going to be a serious factor in the election. When the Treaty was signed and accepted by the majority of the people, Mr. de Valera tried to upset the will of the people. Mr. de Valera’s Party had been beaten and he did not think it would be thought seriously of in the future.

At this stage, Mr. Blythe was interrupted for several moments and there was considerable boohing. When comparative order had been restored, Mr. Blythe said that they found a number of people objecting to what they called high taxation, and these were the very people who demanded most in the way of Government services.


A Voice – You are losing your time talking. Go home to hell with you.

Mr. Blythe – I see a number of enthusiastic supporters of Mr. de Valera here and I am sure they are not a credit to anyone. They objected to the ordinary people deciding what they thought best for themselves and the country; they objected to hear arguments, and they assumed that they knew better than anyone else what should be done. They should remember that the ordinary common people are the masters of the country. The Government has succeeded in preventing people like those gentlemen from interfering very seriously with the ordinary people of the country.

A Voice – You get £3,000 a year for it.

Mr. Blythe then reviewed the Government’s achievements and said that the measures taken to establish peace and order were absolutely necessary. “I can assure you,” he declared, “that it was no pleasure to me or anyone else when it was decided that a certain number of men were to be sent out at 8 o’clock in the morning to face a firing squad; but these things were necessary .”

A Voice – “Up de Valera.” This was followed by an outburst of boohing and catcalls.

Mr. Blythe said that they executed 77 men and had it been necessary to execute more the requisite steps would have been taken. At this there was another uproar and cries of “Murderer!” and “Up de Valera”.

Mr. Blythe went on to refer to complaints made as to the Government’s extravagance and said that, for his own part, he denied that there was any foundation for those accusations. In every respect, he said, the Government had effected economies, and while he did not claim that sufficient economy had been effected, he did claim that substantial progress had been made in that direction.

In this connection he pointed out that in other countries judges were not paid so well as in the Free State; but judges, he contended, should be well paid if they were to be above temptation and corruption. Before the change of Government, thirteen High Court judges were paid £51,000 for the whole of Ireland. Northern Ireland to-day had five High Court judges costing £20,000 a year, or £4,000 each. In the Free State, they had nine judges costing £25,000, which worked out at an average of £2,830 each.

Under the British régime, the head of the Local Government Department had £1,800 a year; to-day his successor was paid £1,200. The same thing happened in every other department. President Cosgrave's salary was £2,500, while Lord Craigavon, the head of Northern Ireland, which consisted of six counties, with a subordinate Parliament, had £3,200.

A Voice – And they are entitled to pay him. He minds his business, and he did not sell the pass like you. (Noise.)

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Selected by Joe Joyce; email