‘Pragmatic patriots: Patrick Hogan and Kevin O’Higgins’
Seminar held in Wynn's Hotel , Dublin, on 12 September 2015
Introductory comments by FELIX M LARKIN who chaired the seminar
Speakers: Professor John P. McCarthy (Fordham University), Dr Ciara Meehan (University of Hertfordshire), John Bruton & Dr Martin Mansergh
Opened by Pat Rabbitte T.D., with closing comments by Nora Owen
Attendees included Brigid Hogan-O'Higgins, former T.D. and daughter of Patrick Hogan
Richard Crossman, the British politician and political scientist, wrote in the 1960s about Cabinet government in Britain becoming increasingly Prime Ministerial government – and the same phenomenon has been evident here in Ireland, as I am sure John Bruton would confirm from his experience. For historians, who inevitably look at the past through the prism of the present, that has meant that we have perhaps concentrated disproportionately on the careers and personalities of heads of government in the first fifty or so years of the new Irish State. The recent series of books published by the Royal Irish Academy – Judging Dev, Judging Lemass and Judging W.T. Cosgrave – is emblematic of this tendency, and in addition Costello and Lynch have both been the subject of major biographies. However, the governments headed by those five – Cosgrave, de Valera, Costello, Lemass and Lynch – contained ministers who in certain respects at least overshadowed their leaders, and so far these figures have received limited attention from historians. Two such figures are the subject of today’s seminar, and I very much welcome this opportunity to focus our attention on them. They were towering figures in W.T. Cosgrave’s government. They were, to use a biblical analogy, the David and Jonathan of that government: great personal friends. They were not 1916 men, not IRB – but active in Sinn Féin after 1916, and with significant links back beyond the Sinn Féin movement to the older nationalist tradition of Parnell’s Irish party at Westminster. In O’Higgins’ case, there was his family connection with the Sullivans and the Healys; and Hogan married the young widow of Michael Davitt’s son. So we have an interesting afternoon ahead of us, and I warmly welcome you all here.