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Todd Morrissey SJ is no stranger to book-launches, but the unveiling (on 9 December) of his biography of Laurence O’Neill (Dublin’s Lord Mayor 1917-1924) was perhaps the best that he can remember...

Morrissey at the Mansion House

Todd Morrissey SJ is no stranger to book-launches, but the unveiling (on 9 December) of his biography of Laurence O’Neill (Dublin’s Lord Mayor 1917-1924) was perhaps the best that he can remember…

Todd Morrissey SJ is no stranger to book-launches, but the unveiling (on 9 December) of his biography of Laurence O’Neill (Dublin’s Lord Mayor 1917-1924) was perhaps the best that he can remember.

It was held in the Mansion House, a venue thick with memories of that crucial period in Ireland’s emergence as a nation. It holds memories of the national convention against conscription in 1918, the gathering which united all the national parties and powers in a common cause. It was the site of the fateful 1921 meeting when the five members of the Irish cabinet, De Valera, Collins, Griffith, Brugha and Cosgrave, argued for and against accepting the Treaty.

Laurence O’Neill, Lord Mayor but not in the Cabinet, would later recall how he sat outside the door and heard the raised voices, especially of old rivals Collins and Brugha, as the arguments raged. He remembered seeing Cosgrave emerge in a torment of indecision, torn between his inclination to accept the Treaty and his friendship with de Valera who was for rejection. Seeing O’Neill, Cosgrave described his dilemma and asked advice. The Lord Mayor knew Cosgrave’s personality and advised him to go away quietly and pray about it. Cosgrave sought a quiet corner, put his worries before the Lord, and came back calm and decisive: so narrow was the margin by which the Cabinet accepted the Treaty.

Laurence O’Neill’s grandson John was one of three speakers at the book-launch, and as he told the story (which he had heard from his father), you could hear a pin drop in the crowded hall. Cllr Oisin Quinn, the present Lord Mayor, spoke brilliantly, and  Todd dispensed his signature to a steady flow of purchased books. It was all you could hope for from a book-launch.