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Historic Kilkenny
W.T. Cosgrave

W.T. Cosgrave was Ireland's first Taoiseach (Prime Minister).

William Thomas Cosgrave was the successor to Michael Collins as Chairman of the Provisional Government for the Irish Free State. He served as the first President of the Executive Council (prime minister) of the Irish Free State from 1922 to 1932.

He served as an MP for Kilkenny City from 1917-1918, and an MP for Kilkenny North from 1918-1922. While of course being elected to Westminster, he along with other Sinn Féin TDs abstained, forming their own parliament in Dublin instead, the Dáil.

He was also elected TD for Kilkenny North from 1918-1921, and a TD for the Carlow-Kilkenny Constituency from 1921-1922.

He founded a real democracy. Violent revolutions normally lead to some new form of tyranny. Not in Ireland's case. W.T. founded a true parliamentary democracy, avoiding the dangers of military rule, fascism, communism, corruption or anything other than normal parliamentary democracy. In the darkest days of WW2, Ireland was one of only a handful of democracies left in the world. Today, only about 10 countries out of 200 in the world have been democracies as long as Ireland.

He gave up power when he lost the election. In this view, Ireland was truly defined as a democracy in 1932. When the republicans, who only a couple of years before had opposed the very existence of the state with violence, finally won a fair election, Cosgrave did, like a true democrat, peacefully surrender power - even though many Free Staters at the time were strongly opposed to surrendering power to De Valera.

He founded a real independent country. Despite the fears about what the Treaty meant at the time, under Cosgrave the Treaty really did mean effective independence for southern Ireland. As [Wallace, 1983] puts it: "by the time he was defeated by Eamon de Valera in the 1932 election, he had established a secure parliamentary democracy and had achieved in dominion status a cordial and almost complete independence from the UK".

He was more modern than De Valera. In its ethos, his state was more modern and inclusive than the more narrow Catholic state later established by de Valera. He appointed a broad range of scholars and Anglo-Irish to the Senate. The 1922 Constitution was reasonably secular and tolerant (later replaced by de Valera's more Catholic, sectarian, 1937 Constitution).

In economics he was interested in prosperity while de Valera was interested in revenge and ideology. The self-destructive Economic War with the UK would not have happened under Cosgrave's government. He died on the 16th of November 1965.

W.T. Cosgrave addresses a large crowd outside Kilkenny Courthouse during the general election in Kilkenny in 1918

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