Earnán de Blaghd (Ernest Blythe) recalls how he became involved in the Republican movement and his activities as an Organiser for the Irish Volunteers.

Earnán de Blaghd was born in 1889 in Magharagall, Lisburn, County Antrim and tells Brian Farrell of the influences that resulted in a northern Protestant becoming a nationalist.  He vividly remembers the Centenary celebrations of the 1798 Rebellion which had a profound effect on him. He cites stories of the United Irishmen, playing ‘Britains and Boers’ with a childhood friend and his growing interest in the Irish language.

When he was fifteen years old de Blaghd moved to Dublin when he secured a position as a boy clerk in the Department of Agriculture.

I had been expecting to go to London, I didn’t mind coming to Dublin but I wasn’t  even particularly thrilled.  

While in Dublin he followed his love of the Irish language and joined the Gaelic League. He recalls being afraid to tell people that he was a Protestant at this stage. Months later he was very pleased to discover that there were other Protestants in the Gaelic League.

Through the game of hurling Earnán de Blaghd met the writer Sean O'Casey who at the time was a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. Despite not having the authority to do so, O’Casey swore him into the IRB. He recalls the belief in the organisation at this time.

The British would never give self-government to Ireland except forced to do so. And we ought to be prepared when England was in difficulties to strike against her.  

Earnán de Blaghd was a member of the Teeling Circle of the IRB and remembers the organisation in Dublin as having a large membership and that it was very much a ‘white collar movement’ at that time.  

By 1909 de Blaghd was working as a reporter for The North Down Herald and became a member of the Belfast Circle of the IRB. Determined to master the Irish language he decided to move to Dingle to an Irish speaking community and found work as a farm labourer.

In 1914 he joined the Volunteers in Kerry and became Captain of the Lispole Company. Earnán de Blaghd was appointed Organiser for the Irish Volunteers tasked with setting up new companies throughout the country. He describes Irish nationalism as being very weak throughout the country before 1916 and the difficulties in trying to set up companies of Irish Volunteers in the north, in Cork and in Clare which he described as being the worst of all.

Due to his activities he had come to the attention of the police and was ordered out of Ireland under the Defence of the Realm Act. He refused to comply and describes his subsequent arrest and imprisonment. At the time of the Rising he was a prisoner in Brixton Prison.

Released in December 1916, de Blaghd rejoined the Volunteers. In the 1918 general election he was elected as Sinn Féin T.D. for North Monaghan.

During the War of Independence Earnán de Blaghd served as Director of Trade and Commerce. He accepted the Anglo-Irish Treaty and was Minister for Finance in the Provisional Government. From 1941 to 1967 he was Managing Director of the Abbey Theatre. Earnán de Blaghd died in 1975.

Earnán de Blaghd was interviewed for the RTÉ Television project 'The Survivors' on 15 March 1965.