Ref NoG41
TitlePapers of George Gilmore
DescriptionThe collection is small and gives arbitrary glimpses into the life and interests of George Gilmore, with most papers dating to the 1980s. It consists of a few items of correspondence (1980-1984); lectures (undated); plays (undated) and memorabilia (1919 and undated).
Date(1904) [1966]- 1984
Extent14 items
ArrangementThe fourteen items in this collection had been kept by Mac an Bheatha with other material he collected for writing his essay "George Gilmore" and were selected from among the other items since they had been once in the personal possession of Gilmore himself. They are in fairly good condition. They have now been arranged into correspondence, drafts of his own writings, and two items of printed matter.
Administrative HistoryBorn in 1898 in Belfast to Protestant parents, George Gilmore was brought up in Dublin, where his father was a leading accountant. He was active in the War of Independence from 1916 onwards, and like his brother Charlie he joined the anti-Treaty forces later. In a letter to Proinsias Mac an Bheatha, he disagreed with the term 'Civil War' since the war was fought between two different sovereign states [see G40/ 730]. He was active as commandant and as intelligence officer in the south County Dublin battalion of the IRA. He served Seán Lemass, Minister for Defence in the republican government, as secretary from 1924 until the foundation of Fianna Fáil.

In 1926, Gilmore led a raid on Mountjoy Jail, releasing 19 Republican prisoners. As member of the Army Council of the IRA, he liaised with Republican sympathisers in other European countries, and in 1930 went to the Soviet Union in hopes of support for the training of IRA officers. Imprisoned in 1931, he was released in 1932 when Fianna Fáil came into government. He and Seán Russell were the first Army Council members to make contact with de Valera on his becoming Taoiseach. In the same year Gilmore was wounded in County Clare in an incident blamed on the police by an official Tribunal of Inquiry.

A strong proponent of socialism and Connolly's idea of the workers' republic, Gilmore often found himself isolated from the mainstream of the republican organisations he belonged to, that is Sinn Fein and the IRA. He expresses his grave misgivings about Arthur Griffith as an exponent of the capitalist side of republicanism, in "The Republican Congress 1934", and this pamphlet further describes the events of 1934 that showed up the deep rift between him with others of the IRA left, and IRA members such as Seán MacBride and Tom Barry: in that year, George Gilmore was one of the IRA Executive members of the left who advocated a 'Republican Congress' to re-state the aims of the republican movement against the forces of capitalim, following the basic tenets of James Connolly. However, at the March 1934- Army convention in Dublin the propositions were rejected through a negative vote of the Executive, and Peadar O'Donnell, Frank Ryan, and George Gilmore organised the Republican Congress on their own, offering their manifesto at a meeting in Athlone on 8 April, at first hoping to avoid a split, but unable to do so eventually. Gilmore called the Congress "an organising centre for anti-imperialist activities on the part of people irrespective of their party or organisational affiliations". The party faced opposition from the IRA throughout; Gilmore's attempt to involve northern Protestants in the Wolfe Tone commemorations of 1934 ended in an outbreak of violence in Bodenstown. After further internal divisions, the Republican Congress was dissolved in 1935. Gilmore and O'Donnell then became involved with tenant leagues, influencing Fianna Fáil in their State housing programme. Also, Gilmore organised support for the Spanish Republic. In 1938 he stood as an independent socialist republican candidate in a south county Dublin by-election, unsuccessfully.

Over the course of his life, and particularly his last twenty years, he published a number of pamphlets and wrote letters to Irish papers, criticising the 'neo-Redmondism' ruling Ireland [G41/ 4], explaining the objectives of socialist republicanism, interpreting actions of individuals and groups during the struggle for independence and for an Irish State, and always advocating an inclusive policy, transcending politico-religious sectarianism in north and south. Like Peadar O'Donnell, he gave lectures on Labour and socialist/ republican history [cf. G41/ 8 and 9]. Both became household names again during the 1960s, and they were invited to give talks to the new generation of republicans. Generally Gilmore was opposed to the actions of the Provisional IRA of the 1970s, regarding them as counter-productive, and as contributing to sectarianism. His lecture "Prods, Papes and Republicans", given at Magee College in 1980 [G41/ 11], offers a concise autobiographical summary of his life and opinions.

During the 1980s, the Irish language activist and writer Proinsias Mac an Bheatha became a friend to George Gilmore who then lived in Howth; he published an account of their acquaintance in 1986, shedding light on the circumstances of the last years of Gilmore's life. It is through his intervention that these papers survive; when Gilmore had been dead for a month he went to the derelict house and found them lying on the floor. Although not expressive of strong opinions on the man, his depiction of Gilmore did not go unchallenged (cf. letter of 4 July 1988 to the "Irish Times" from Seosamh Ó Díochon, county Antrim [G40/732]). In a letter to Mac an Bheatha of 12 December 1980 Gilmore expresses his opinion on de Valera's 'Document 2' and the type of 'nationalism that is not anti-imperialist' represented by it and by the 1937 Constitution. His suspicion of any narrow 'hibernicising' tendencies in the language movement also find overtones in that letter; along with his admiration for the realist Casement [G40/ 729].

Mac an Bheatha's essay "George Gilmore" further helps interpret some of the items in this collection. Gilmore enjoyed travelling to France and Rome, and visited his friends Pru Rigby and Erna Bennett near Rome, whose correspondence is in the archives [G41/ 1, 2 and cf. Papers of Proinsias Mac an Bheatha G40/ 233, 236, 237, 922]. -Bennett is [was] a pioneer scientist in biogenetics, a campaigner, communist and journalist of Belfast extraction.- Gilmore took a lively interest in the northern Protestants of 1798: Mac an Bheatha discussed his research into the life of the weaver of Templepatrick, Jemmy Hope - 'the first Irish socialist' , with Gilmore, eventually dedicating the biography to him in 1985. As closely connected to the topic, Gilmore showed him his play, "Betsy Gray", dealing with a young woman involved in the 1798 rebellion [fragment G41/ 8]. The prayer book in the collection [G41/ 14] belonged to Cora Hughes, a member of the Republican Congress and Gilmore's fiancée, who died young of tuberculosis. Gilmore explained to Mac an Bheatha that de Valera had been her godfather, and that while she was imprisoned by a Fianna Fáil government, he continued sending her books in Irish. Gilmore based another play on her [fragment G41/ 8]. The way Nora McCormick's memoir reached Gilmore is unknown. [G41/ 13].

George Gilmore died in Howth in June 1985.
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