MacBride, Seán

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Person

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MacBride, Seán

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Dates of existence

1904-1988

History

Seán MacBride, lawyer and politician, was born in Paris on 26 January 1904. His father,John MacBride, a native of Westport, Co. Mayo had emigrated to South Africa at an early age in search of employment and had taken a leading part in the Irish brigade which fought against the British in the Boer War. His mother, Maud Gonne, met MacBride in Paris, where she had been living for some years. As a result, Seán MacBride spent his early years in France with his mother and received his first education at the Jesuit college of St Louis de Gonzague in Paris. In April 1916 his father was executed for his part in the Easter rising in Dublin. MacBride was enrolled at the age of fourteen as a boarder at Mount St Benedict in Co. Wexford. MacBride became a member of Fianna Éireann, the junior branch of the IRA, at the age of fourteen, and at the age of sixteen, having lied about his age, was admitted to the IRA itself during the Anglo-Irish war (Irish War of Independence,1919–21). He was invited by Michael Collins to accompany him to London for the Anglo–Irish treaty negotiations from October to December 1921.He remained a member of the IRA during and after the civil war of 1922–23 and became its chief of staff in 1936–37, severing his formal ties because he believed the 1937 constitution met republican objectives.

MacBride became a senior counsel in 1943, having spent only six years at the junior bar. He continued to be counsel for the defendant in criminal cases, and he defended a number of IRA members. Shortly after the end of World War II he became immersed in active politics as one of the founders in 1946 of a new party, Clann na Poblachta, of which he was to be the leader. In three by-elections held in October 1947, Clann na Poblachta won two seats from Fianna Fáil, with MacBride himself being returned for Co. Dublin. As Minister for External Affairs he was involved in the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation and the Council of Europe and in the drafting of the Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedom. MacBride was closely involved in the Irish application for financial assistance from the United States under the Marshall Plan designed to encourage European recovery in the post-war period. He was also the negotiator on behalf of the sixteen applicant nations. Early in 1957 the party withdrew its support from the government, and in the general election which followed (5 March) MacBride lost his seat (though Clann na Poblachta won three seats). He failed to be elected in two by-elections (Dublin south-central 1958 and Dublin south west 1959) and in the 1961 general election. He never stood for the dáil again. Clann na Poblachta was dissolved in 1965. MacBride had returned to practice at the bar in 1951 and appeared in a number of notable cases in subsequent years. MacBride's interest in the protection of human rights, which had been evident in his work on the European Convention, was also reflected in the part he played in the establishment of Amnesty International: he became the chairman of its international executive committee in 1961. In 1963 he left the bar to serve as the full-time secretary general of the International Commission of Jurists based in Geneva. MacBride died 15 January 1988, at the age of eighty-three, after a short illness and was buried in Glasnevin cemetery beside his mother and his wife: the latter had predeceased him in 1976. He was survived by the two children of their marriage, Anna MacBride White (b. 1927) and Tiernan (1934–95).

By Ronan Keane, Dictionary of Irish Biography (2009) Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 4.0 International license DOI: https://doi.org/10.3318/dib.005109.v1

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15th Dáil: 1954-1957

14th Dáil:1951-1954

13th Dáil: 1948-1951
Minister for External Affairs (1948 - 1951)

12th Dáil: 1947-1948

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Authority record identifier

0000025

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IE DCUA

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ISAAR (CPF)

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Dates of creation, revision and deletion

2022-04-28

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  • English

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Sources

Dictionary of Irish Biography (2009) DOI: https://doi.org/10.3318/dib.005109.v1

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