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A Worthy Successor to Tone and Casement? The Life of Seán Russell

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Presented by Coolock Library, as part of Dublin Festival of History 2021

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For over half a century, the statue of IRA Chief-of-Staff Seán Russell in Fairview Park has been both a flashpoint of controversy and site of devoted Irish republican pilgrimage.

But who was this key IRA figure of the early 20th century – and what was the nature of his still-controversial contacts with the Nazi government in the midst of the Second World War?

Born in Dublin’s inner city, Russell cultivated a reputation as a devoted and gifted militant for the republican cause across the revolutionary period. On joining the Irish Volunteers’ Dublin Brigade in 1914, by the time of the Truce Russell was a key individual on IRA GHQ who ultimately opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty.

Through the 1920s and 30s, Russell remained an active IRA figure, aloof from internal political debates and determined to see the organisation return to war. On becoming IRA Chief-of-Staff in 1939, Russell oversaw an ill-fated bombing campaign in England and the following year in the last weeks of his life, embarked on a fateful journey to Berlin that remains the most discussed aspect of his legacy.

Gerard Shannon is a historian from Skerries in north county Dublin. He has an MA in History from the DCU School of History and Geography. He is currently working on a biography of the IRA Chief-of-Staff Liam Lynch, due to be published by Merrion Press in 2022.

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The Dublin Festival of History is an annual free festival, brought to you by Dublin City Council, and organised by Dublin City Libraries, in partnership with the Dublin City Council Culture Company.

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