Organizations: Aiken, Frank, 1898-1983
Extent: 41 items
Abstract: This selection of press images provides a sample of the photographic archive of Frank Aiken throughout his lengthy political career. These important images chronicle the life of a key figure in twentieth century Irish political history.
Author/Contributor: Teresa O’Donnell and Niamh Brennan
Original items located in UCD Archives, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
UCD Archives website
Digital surrogates are maintained by the Irish Virtual Research Library and Archive (IVRLA), University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
UCD Archives website
Reference Number: P104
Frank Aiken was born in Armagh in 1898. He was politically and militarily active from a young age, joining the Irish Volunteers at sixteen, and within a few years becoming Chairman of the Armagh Comhairle Ceanntair of Sinn Féin and elected onto Armagh County Council. During the War of Independence, he commanded the Fourth Northern Division of the IRA. The split over the Anglo-Irish Treaty left Aiken ultimately aligned with the Anti-Treaty side in spite of personal efforts to prevent division and civil war. He succeeded Liam Lynch as Chief of Staff of the IRA in March 1923 and issued the cease fire and dump arms orders on 24 May 1923 that effectively ended the Civil War.
He was first elected to the Dáil as a Sinn Féin candidate in the Louth constituency in 1923, continuing to be re-elected for Fianna Fáil at every election until his retirement from politics fifty years later. He entered the first Fianna Fáil government as Minister for Defence (1932–9), later becoming Minister for the Coordination of Defensive Measures (1939–45) with responsibility for overseeing Ireland’s national defence and neutral position during the Second World War.
Aiken was Minister for Finance (1945–8) for three years following the war and was involved in economic post–war development, in the industrial, agricultural, educational and other spheres. However, it was as Minister for External Affairs (1951–4, 1957–69) that Aiken fulfilled his enormous political potential. As Foreign Minister he adopted where possible an independent stance for Ireland at the United Nations and other international for a such as the Council of Europe. Despite a great deal of opposition, both at home and abroad, he stubbornly asserted the right of UN members to discuss the representation of communist China at the General Assembly. Unable to bring the issue of the partition of Ireland to the UN, Aiken ensured that Ireland vigorously defended the rights of small nations such as Tibet and Hungary (invaded by China and Russia respectively, in the 1950s), nations whose problems it was felt Ireland could identify with and had a moral obligation to help.
Aiken also supported the right of countries such as Algeria to self-determination and spoke out against apartheid in South Africa. Under Ireland’s policy of promoting the primacy of international law and reducing global tension at the height of the Cold War, Aiken promoted the idea of areas of law, which he believed would free the most tense regions around the world from the threat of nuclear war. Likewise, Aiken sponsored a resolution to prevent the ‘wider dissemination of nuclear weapons’ and proposed peace initiatives for the crisis in the Middle East.
In 1969, Aiken, who was then seventy, stepped down from his positions as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Tánaiste [deputy prime minister], at a time when the gradual move towards membership of the European Union and growing tensions in Northern Ireland would soon shift the focus of Foreign Affairs policy from the UN to matters closer to home. Positions and policies nurtured and guarded from the 1950s—neutrality, independence, Ireland as a 'middle power'—would come to change or have different meanings as new alignments were formed in the 1970s. Aiken would watch these changes from the sidelines and at the age of seventy-five, in the midst of the arms crisis of 1973, he decided finally to retire from political life, opting not to stand for re-election in his County Louth constituency. During an incomparable ministerial career he had also held briefly the portfolios of Lands and Fisheries (June–November 1936) and Agriculture (March–May 1957).
Frank Aiken married Maud Davin in October 1934. They had three children, Proinnsias, Lochlann and Aedamar. In 1983 he died peacefully, at the age of eighty-five, his wife having predeceased him by five years.
Scope and Content
This subset of press photographs relates to Aiken's political and personal life. It contains images of official government events and ministerial trips, as well as family members and friends.
Conditions Governing Access to Original Materials
Collections in UCD Archives are made available for research only when they have been fully processed and an appropriate finding aid, usually a descriptive list, has been constructed. Both deposited collections and university archives are subject to a thirty year rule. Deposited collections may be subject to additional restrictions or access requirements. In particular, application to the owners or trustees of certain collections is necessary before access can be granted. Access to collections, or parts of collections, may be withdrawn from time to time as material is removed for conservation or preservation reformatting.
For further information on accessing original items in this collection, please contact UCD Archives directly.
Conditions Governing Access to Digitised Materials
Digital surrogates are made available by the Irish Virtual Research Library and Archive (IVRLA), subject to the terms and conditions outlined on this website.
The Frank Aiken Papers were deposited in University College Dublin Archives Department on 9 July 1991 by Frank and Eileen Aiken.
The original processing of this material was carried out by Teresa O’Donnell and Niamh Brennan in June 1999.
Edited by the Irish Virtual Research Library and Archive (IVRLA), 2009.
Conditions Governing Use of Original Materials
Restrictions may vary depending upon the particular item. Please contact UCD Archives for further information.
Conditions Governing Use of Digitised Materials
Digital surrogates may only be used in accordance with the terms and conditions of the Irish Virtual Research Library and Archive (IVRLA).
Aiken, Frank, 1898-1983
De Valera, Eamonn, 1882-1975