The second son of Abraham William Briscoe and Ida Yodaiken from Lithuania, Robert Briscoe was born in Dublin in 1894. Both of his parents were leading members of the Dublin Jewish Community. The young Briscoe grew up with his three brothers and three sisters in a loving family home above their father’s business on the North Quays.
Abraham instilled the tenets of their religion into the children as well as educating them in the ancient myths, legends, histories of Ireland ,especially tales of the great patriots Theobold Wolfe Tone, Robert Emmet and Charles Stewart Parnell.
Robert’s education started in the Catholic Primary School behind his home, the Presbyterian Secondary St. Andrew’s College, Dublin and the Jewish public School Townley Hall in England. In 1912 Robert was sent to Germany to study Business Methods and Electronic Engineering in the Salaman Handal Akadamie in Berlin. He took classes in Hebrew religion and history in the Hildesheimer seminary for Rabbis. Apprenticed to the commercial firm Hecht Pfeffer @ Co. Berlin this period of his life provided him with the tools he would require in his revolutionary work for Ireland’s freedom as well as the contacts he would require when working with Vladimir Jabotinsky’s New Revisionist Zionists in rescuing Jews from Europe before and during the Second World War.
Robert Briscoe’s career can easily be divided into three periods. His activities as a spy for Sinn Fein, envoy of Michael Collins to Germany to purchase arms and ammunition for the War of Independence. Possibly as his alter ego Captain Swift, he became the most successful arms runner of his generation. His boats The Anita, The Frieda and his most successful boat The City of Dortmund ran cargoes of arms from Germany into ports all around the coast of Ireland. From 1918 to 1922.
In 1927 Bob was elected a member of the Irish Parliament for the Fianna Fail party he helped to form. Having served for 37 years he saw many changes in the country. The intransigence of the Irish Government in its policy of refusing to admit Jews here in the 1930s raised his Jewish awareness and his inability to help his European co-religionists turned his attention to the movement of Ze’ev Jabotinsky under whose auspices he led missions to the U.S.A. Poland and South Africa.
His links with the Revisionists led to his friendship with leading members of the Irgun some of whom visited Ireland to learn how the IRA fought the British but more importantly Robert was in a position to advise against civil war in Israel following independence.
During the 1940s and 1950s Robert Briscoe remained the popular Fianna Fail T.D. for the inner City who was twice elected Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1956 and 1961. Bob had lived in New York for short periods of time and was well known and thought of in Irish and Jewish Circles there. He spent much of his remaining years in politics raising the awareness of commerce in Ireland and raising funds for the new State of Israel throughout the United States. In 1965 he retired from the Dail and in 1967 from the Dublin City Council. Robert Briscoe passed way in quiet retirement in 1969 having said his last goodbye to his oldest and dearest political friend The President Eamon DeValera.
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