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Robert Erskine Childers

Childers, Robert Erskine (chĭlˈdərz) [key], 1870–1922, Irish politician and author. Born into a Protestant family, he was a clerk in the House of Commons (1895–1910). Gradually becoming convinced of the need for Irish Home Rule, he resigned to work for it, engaging in gun-running for the Irish Volunteers in 1914. After serving in the British forces during World War I, he represented the Irish cause at Versailles and was a member of the Irish delegation that negotiated the treaty with Britain (1921). By this time he was opposed to anything other than republic status for Ireland and urged rejection of the treaty. He fought in the Irish Republican Army in the civil war that followed the creation of the Irish Free State, and was court-martialed and shot as a traitor in 1922. Childers wrote on Irish politics and on military matters, but his best-known work is Riddle of the Sands (1903, repr. 1971), a spy novel. His son, Erskine Hamilton Childers, 1905–74, became a naturalized Irish citizen and a member of the Dáil in 1938. He held a succession of cabinet posts in the Fianna Fáil governments from 1944 on and in 1973 was elected president of Ireland.

See A. Boyle The Riddle of Erskine Childers (1977).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: British and Irish History: Biographies


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