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Frank Aiken

From Academic Kids

Frank Aiken (February 13, 1898 - May 18, 1983) was a senior Irish politician. He was a founding-member of Fianna Fáil and was first elected to Dáil Éireann in 1923 and at each subsequent election until 1973. Aiken served as Minister for Defence (1932-1939), Minister for Co-Ordination of Defensive Measures (1943-1945), Minister for Finance (1945-1948) and Minister for External Affairs (1951-1954 & 1957-1969). He also served as cating Minister for Finance and Minister for Lands & Fisheries. Aiken served as Tánaiste of Ireland from 1965 until 1969.

Frank Aiken was born on February 13, 1898 at Camlough in County Armagh. He was educated at Newry Christian Brothers School and in 1914 he joined the Irish Volunteers. Within a few years he became 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 of 1921 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 IRA Chief of Staff in March 1923 and issued the cease fire and dump arms orders on May 24, 1923 that effectively ended the Irish Civil War. He remained Chief of Staff of the IRA until 12 November 1925.

Aiken was first elected to Dáil Éireann as a Sinn Féin candidate for Louth 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, later becoming Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures with responsibility for overseeing Ireland’s national defence and neutral position during the Second World War.

Aiken was Minister for Finance 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 his two periods as Minister for External Affairs 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 (because of Britain's veto on the Security Council), Aiken ensured that Ireland vigorously defended the rights of small nations such as Tibet and Hungary, 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. He also introduced the so-called 'Aiken Plan' to the United Nations in an effort to combine disarmament and peace in the Middle East. He received the honour of being the first minister to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968 in Moscow.


Aiken retired from Ministerial office and as Tánaiste in 1969. During the Arms Crisis it is said that the Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, turned to Aiken for advice on a number of issues. He retired from politics in 1973 due to the fact that Charles Haughey, whose style of politics Aiken strongly disliked, was allowed run with the support of Fianna Fáil in the general election.

Aiken received many decorations and honours, including honorary doctorates from the National University of Ireland and University of Dublin. He was also a lifelong supporter of the Irish language. His wife died in a road accident in 1978.

Frank Aiken died on May 18, 1983 in Dublin. He was buried with full State honours in his native Camlough.

Political Career


Preceded by:
Desmond FitzGerald
Minister for Defence
1932-1939
Succeeded by:
Oscar Traynor
Preceded by:
Joseph Connolly
Minister for Lands
1936
Succeeded by:
Gerald Boland
Preceded by:
Newly Created Office
Minister for the Co-Ordination of Defensive Measures
1939-1945
Succeeded by:
Office Ceases to Exist
Preceded by:
Seán T. Ó Ceallaigh
Minister for Finance
1945-1948
Succeeded by:
Patrick McGilligan
Preceded by:
Seán MacBride
Minister for External Affairs
1951-1954
Succeeded by:
Liam Cosgrave
Preceded by:
James Dillon
Minister for Agriculture
1957
Succeeded by:
Seán Moylon
Preceded by:
Liam Cosgrave
Minister for External Affairs
1957-1969
Succeeded by:
Patrick Hillery
Preceded by:
Seán Moylon
Minister for Agriculture
1957
Succeeded by:
Patrick Smith
Preceded by:
Seán MacEntee
Tánaiste
1965-1969
Succeeded by:
Erskine Hamilton Childers

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