After the Easter rising, Briscoe embraced physical force nationalism and returned to Ireland from the USA, where he had run a Christmas light business. He rose in the nationalist movement, but his origins were not always overlooked: we've already seen how another leading nationalist, Charles Bewley, expressed his anti-semitism openly to Briscoe. It can't have been easy: another important nationalist, George Gavan Duffy, attempted to enlist the support of the Vatican behind the independence movement by informing it that "Jews and Masons were united against us in foreign press in support of England." But Briscoe stuck it out, and was elected to the Dáil for a Dublin constituency in 1927: between Robert and his son Ben, the family held the seat for 75 years. We've also seen how Robert advocated the admission of Jewish refugees to Ireland before, during and after the Second World War, with some limited success.
After Ireland, his biggest enthusiasm was for Zionism, which leads to some interesting parallels. One thing Briscoe knew a bit about was revolutionary war. He embraced Ze'ev Jabotinsky's ideology of revisionist zionism (the DIB refers to Jaboinsky's Revisionist Party, but the political body was called the New Zionist Organization) and advised its military wing, the Irgun, on military matters, including the conduct of a guerrilla war. Although this war in the years up to the foundation of the state of Israel was in part being waged against the British, the principal victims of Irgun attacks were Palestinian arabs: abaout 500 dead between 1937 and 1948. According to the DIB, after the Second World War, Briscoe advised the Irgun leader Menachem Begin to emulate De Valera and embrace parliamentary politics: in that sense, Likud is the Fianna Fáil of modern Israel.
Late in life, Briscoe became a sensation in the USA, where he toured during his tenure as Lord Mayor of Dublin. Even now, more than 50 years later, alter kockers still bring up Briscoe as one of the few Irishmen they've ever heard of. Improbably, Briscoe's American reputation was so high, that an episode of CBS's legendary Playhouse 90 series was devoted to him, directed by John Frankenheimer with, even more improbably, the very goyisch Irish-American Art Carney in the leading role. Apparently at one point in the play, he recites the prayer for the dead, the kaddish, in Hebrew. That, I would have liked to see. (By the way, my attempted embrace of Yiddish is completely phony: Hungarian Jews largely spoke ... Hungarian.)
Irish Comics Wiki for this 1810 illustration, by the caricaturist Henry Brocas, Sr., who produced lively political stuff as well as more formal portraiture, including of Robert Emmett, who bestowed his names on Robert Briscoe, above. He found employment running an art college in Dublin, but was fired for being "erratic", unpunctual, insubordinate and disobedient. The family was very gifted: Henry's brother, Arthur, was also an artist, as were his four sons, including Henry junior, who emulated his father in another respect: he rose to take charge of the same art college, the Royal Dublin Society's School of Landscape and Ornament, only also to be dismissed for his failings in the post.
It's striking how many high-bred Irish women embraced nationalism at the turn of the 20th century. We've already encountered the Gore-Booth sisters; among many others was Albinia Brodrick born in London, daughter of Viscount Midleton. She came to know Ireland through visits to the family's estate in Co. Cork; her brother William was a leading unionist. I had forgotten that I encountered Albinia once before, in Hubert Butler's marvelous essays - in her case, in the autobiographical one called "The Auction" collected in his book Grandmother and Wolfe Tone - in which it was said of her that she
[C]onceived it her mission to atone for the sins of her ancestor, exacting landlords of the south-west; she dressed as an old Irish countrywoman and ran a village shop, while behind her on a stony Dunkerron promontory rose the shell of a large hospital which she had built for the sick poor of Kerry, but which, because of its unsuitable though romantic site, had remained empty and unused.Butler made her seem a merely local curiosity; in fact, she plunged into national politics, supporting the Easter rising and visiting republican prisoners. She took the name Gobnait Ní Bhruadair, opposed the Anglo-Irish treaty, and during the civil war was shot in the leg by Free State forces. At the same time, she was a stalwart of her local protestant church, where she played the harmonium (while requiring her catholic employees to attend mass. The DIB says that she was "difficult and eccentric"; she left most of her estate to republicans "as they were in the years 1919 to 1921" - a bequest that a court ruled was "void for remoteness". Butler, writing of her failed hospital, could have been summing her up as well:
There is a labyrinthine story of idealism, obstinacy, perversity, social conscience, medicine, family, behind this empty structure. The man who could unravel it would be diagnosing the spiritual sickness of Ireland ...