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In 1965, BBC journalist John Morgan was sent to Dublin to gather some idea of the attitudes of the Irish public to censorship. Standing outside a Dublin bookshop, he began his report by commenting on the types of books that did sell in Ireland. In the window behind him, we can see an ad for Dan Breen’s memoir My Fight For Irish Freedom, as well as other titles focused on the revolutionary period and Irish history more broadly.

On the streets, Morgan encountered a variety of opinions, but most of the public seemed broadly supportive of some degree of censorship of the printed word and screen. There were some voices of objection ,but in the words of one young man, “we’re not as liberal as the British, who are after all not a Christian race if one is to say that at present day.”

By the second half of the 1960s, censorship in Ireland was beginning to unravel, in no small part thanks to the efforts of some high profile victims of the Censorship of Publications Board to publicly challenge the body. This year, Dublin City Council and Dublin UNESCO City of Literature will celebrate Edna O’Brien’s The Country Girls trilogy, a series of books which were banned upon release but are now recognised as Irish literary classics. As the very deserving chosen title for One City One Book, thousands of people across the city will engage with the work of an author whose work was shamefully dismissed as “a smear on Irish womanhood” at the time of publication.

Refusing to accept the banning of her works, O’Brien was central to the high profile foundation meeting of the Censorship Reform Society at Dublin’s Gate Theatre in December 1966, which received international attention. While living in London, she returned to Dublin, banned books in hand, to address the rally that included leading voices from the world of theatre, academia and literature. Of her arrival, the Irish Examiner noted:

Edna O’Brien, the Clare-born authoress, landed at Dublin Airport on Saturday night with five copies of her books. She left the airport holding only the dust jackets of her novels. The customs officials had confiscated the books.

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Evening Herald, 5 December 1966.

Few public meetings receive the level of attention that the launch of the Censorship Reform Society on 4 December 1966 did,but the sheer calibre of speaker at their launch explains the public interest. Among thirteen speakers, theatre director and actor Micheal Mac Liammoir, poet Brendan Kennelly and novelist James Plunkett addressed the meeting. The following day, the Irish Press reported that “twelve men and Edna O’Brien declared that the system branded authors as pornographers, obscene and indecent.”

Jim Fitzgerald, theatre and television producer, served as Chairman of the group and was a driving force behind the rally. Taking a similar line to other opponents of censorship in Irish life, including Sean O’Faolain of The Bell, he emphasised that the society were not against all censorship, as “the society was not being formed to challenge the bona fide aims of the Censorship Board where it concerned genuine pornography, but to lay the grounds for a system of appeal against a law which forbade the works of many true artists appearing on the bookshelves or bookshops and libraries in this country.”

Around a hundred people were turned away from the packed Gate Theatre, where the meeting began with actors T.P McKenna and Maureen Toral reading excerpts from Edna O’Brien’s latest work, which was then in legal limbo, having been seized by customs and other consideration by the Censorship of Publications Board. The Censorship Reform Society announced its intention to challenge the banning of O’Brien’s work in the courts, if the Board deemed the book unfit for Irish audiences.

Not all reporting on the meeting was friendly, Seamus Brady in the Irish Press was particularly scathing of O’Brien, while also suggesting a link between ‘corrupting publications’ and crime in other nations:

The National Council of Juvenile Court Judges in the United States,which is surely more entitled to speak on the subject, has come out sternly to blame corrupting publications as a major cause of the growth of sex and armed robbery crimes among juvenile delinquents. then we have Miss Edna O’Brien,who is becoming somewhat tiresome in her self-appointed role of acting as special advocate in pleasing the cause of our womanfolk. Well, whatever they may say in the free and exacting atmosphere of Britain about our censorship, we are certainly broadminded when it comes to affording public platforms for our cranks and critics. Miss O’Brien enjoys the freedom of the State-owned Radio Telefis Eireann for her views.

Frustratingly, the Censorship of Publications Board was not obliged to give any information on why books were banned. Less than a week after the Gate Theatre meeting, it was announced that O’Brien’s Casualties of Peace was the latest banned work, with the press reporting that “the ban is on grounds of indecency. A spokesman for the Board would give no further details.” With this being the case, the Censorship Reform Society called for “a system whereby a banned author could appeal to the courts”.

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1st UK edition of Causalities of Peace, banned by the Censorship of Publications Board (Image Credit: Ulysses Rare Books)

Living outside of Ireland, O’Brien perhaps felt more comfortable challenging censorship than other Irish writers, who were sometimes victimised in their professional lives when works fell foul of the Board. Most famously, the fallout from the banning of John McGahern’s The Dark has contributed, at least in part, to his removal from a teaching post. To be banned, it was joked, an honour for an Irish writer. Still, as O’Faolain noted, it could also bring feelings of great anger. On learning that his book Midsummer Night Madness was banned, he later noted that “outwardly I laughed at the news. In my heart I felt infuriated and humiliated.”

How important was the Censorship Reform Society in changing things? In truth, censorship was already in the process of collapse. Bruce Arnold recalled that the body was short lived:

Some of us started the Censorship Reform Society. Edna O’Brien spoke at the Gate Theatre on the inaugural night. We had seen Edna’s novels banned, along with a host of other works of literature, and we wanted to fight this.

As with most Irish ventures, few offered financial help. In any case, the society was overtaken by events; censorship began to crumble.

The Censorship Reform Society did succeed in bringing public scrutiny on the Censorship Publications Board. Judge Charles Conroy, chairman of the board,  found himself in the spotlight after the rally, telling one journalist from Trinity News that “our main aim is to keep filth out of this country.” The student journalist came away from it all wondering:

Is the judge himself qualified to be on the Censorship Board? In my hour’s conversation with him he did not appear to have anything more than superficial knowledge of literature. The main attribute of all the members of the Board was their common sense, rather than their knowledge of literature.

1967 brought real reform to Irish censorship law, as now prohibition orders made on the grounds of indecency would expire after a period of twelve years, though they could then be reexamined then. The immediate effect of the reform was the unbanning of thousands of works. Undoubtedly, the controversies around 1960s works like O’Brien’s and McGahern’s had played a pivotal role in this change. If nothing else, the December 1966 meeting was an unprecedented united front against censorship from right across the artistic community.

O’Brien very beautifully described Irish censorship as being rooted in a “fear of knowledge, a fear of communicating our desires, our secrets, our stream of consciousness”.  This year, Dublin will rightly honour her work, and her contribution to intellectual freedom in Irish life.

 

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Thomas Johnson, Secretary of the Irish Labour Party and drafter of the Democratic Programme of the First Dáil.

The meeting of the First Dáil in Dublin’s Mansion House on 21 January 1919 was the realisation of Sinn Féin’s stunning electoral victory in the General Election of the previous month. For many of those in attendance,  it was a defining moment in their own political journey. The title of this post comes from the memoir of Máire Comerford, Cumann na mBán activist who watched it all from the gallery. She remembered listening to the speaker, as “we repeated the words of the Declaration after him, and felt we had burnt our boats now. There was no going back.”

Sweeping aside the old order of the Irish Parliamentary Party, the Sinn Féin electoral landslide was described beautifully by one contemporary observer as the “triumph of the young over the old.” Some of those who lost their seats had stepped aside graciously; in the words of one defeated Home Ruler, it was simply: “the passing away of a great movement, to be succeeded by another.”To the conservative British press, the result was horrifying, though the Daily Mail found some comfort in the fact that: “the victory of the Sinn Féiners, since they do not intend to come to Westminster, may indeed be regarded as a blessing.”

Sinn Féin’s election manifesto had been unambiguous about the question of Irish parliamentarians sitting in Westminster, pledging the party to: “withdrawing the Irish Representation from the British Parliament and…denying the right and opposing the will of the British Government or any other foreign Government to legislate for Ireland.” More ambiguous however was its commitment to: “making use of any and every means available to render impotent the power of England to hold Ireland in subjection by military force or otherwise.”

With 69 parliamentarians representing 73 constituencies, Sinn Féin could assert itself as the dominant force in Irish political life. Yet a century ago, it was a mere 27 elected representatives who gathered in Dublin’s Mansion House, reflecting the political turmoil of the day and the widespread suppression of prominent Sinn Féin voices.

Internationally, the gathering was front page news, with New York’s The Evening World telling their readers that: “probably no country except Ireland could present an episode as remarkable as the assembly of the Dáil Éireann (Gaelic for Irish Parliament) which was called to order in Dublin’s ancient Mansion House.” In London, the press reports noted that: “Dublin Castle has apparently decided to ignore the Dáil, as long as it is confined to talking.”

When the roll call of all elected Irish parliamentarians was read, 29 were ‘i lathair’ (present), many more ‘as lathair’ (not present), and others either ‘fé ghlas ag Gallaibh’ (jailed by the foreigner) or ‘ar díbirt ag Gallabih’ (deported by the foreigner). There was some laughter in the room when Unionist leader Edward Carson was recorded as ‘as lathair.’ Despite 29 being declared in attendance, there were 27 in reality.  Harry Boland and Michael Collins, while declared to be in the room, were both absent. It provided an alibi for other plans, and said something of the seditious nature of it all.

What took place at this gathering was deeply symbolic, and intended for the consumption of a global audience. As Europe was reeling from the fallout of World War One, and all eyes were focused on France and the peace conferences many hoped could bring permanent peace to the continent, a ‘Message to the Free Nations of the World’ was read in the Mansion House in English, Irish and French.It explicitly stated that: “the permanent peace of Europe can never be secured by perpetuating military dominion for the profit of empire but only by establishing the control of government in every land upon the basis of the free will of a free people.” Sinn Féin sought to give Ireland a voice at this new table of European diplomacy, maintaining that while it was a new day, we were an old nation: “Ireland today reasserts her historic nationhood the more confidently before the new world emerging from the War.”

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Members of the First Dáil photographed on 21 January 1919.

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Early Houses of Dublin (2019)

In February 2015, I published an article listing the remaining 14 or so ‘early house’ pubs in Dublin city centre along with some brief historical background about why these bars have special licenses allowing them to open at 7am.

Delaney’s, North King Street, 1976. Note the ‘Bar Open 7am’ sign. Credit – dublincity.ie

In the last four years, one pub has been demolished and two have closed down. A further three have been put on sale or sold so their futures are uncertain.

The Dark Horse Inn on George’s Quay closed its doors in July 2016 and reopened as a Starbucks coffee shop the following month. I wrote a long piece about the history of the building here.

Ned Scanlon’s on Townsend Street closed and and the pub was demolished in October 2018.

‘Before and After’. Ned Scanlon’s, Townsend Street. Credit – John Fleming on Facebook

We’ve also heard that The Capel Bar on Little Green Street, which featured in a 2016 Dublin Inquirer piece, has closed in recent months.

So as far as I can assert, these are the remaining 10 ‘early house’ pubs in Dublin as of early 2019.

Northside:

1. The Boar’s Head, Capel Street (Mon-Fri 8am; Sat 11am)

2. The Chancery Inn, Inns Quay (Mon-Fri 9am; Sat 7am). The pub (and five apartments) was on the market for €1.7 million in May 2018 so it’s unclear what the future may bring.

3. Delaney’s, North King Street (Mon-Sat 9am). This pub was up for sale in 2016 but no changes has affected it yet it seems.

4. M. Hughes, Chancery Street (Mon-Fri 8.30am; Sat 7am)

5. The Metro, Parnell Street. After sixty years in business, the current owners have retired and put up the pub for sale in October 2018. So time will tell whether the pub will continue to open early.

6. Molloy’s, Talbot Street (Mon-Sat 7am)

7. Slattery’s, Capel Street (Mon-Sat 7am)

8. Madigan’s, Connolly Station (Mon-Fri 8.30am, Sat 10.30am)

Southside:

9. The Galway Hooker, Heuston Station

10. Padraig Pearse, Pearse Street (Mon-Fri 7.30am; Sat 9am)

11. The Windjammer, Lombard Street (Mon-Sat 7am)

Outside of city:
– The Fisherman’s Bar, attached to The Waterside pub, in Howth (Mon-Sat 8am)

 

My thanks to my friend Dorje for passing on a heap of old copies of In Dublin recently. An invaluable publication in the days before social media, it gave some sense of what was happening in the city. Dating from 1977 and 1978, these issues give good insight into culture in the city.  Many of the places advertised within remain loved parts of the city today.

Firstly, and most importantly, Grogans public house on South William Street.

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There are two advertisements from the gay rights movement, firstly Tel-A-Friend (which in time became the Gay Switchboard), and secondly the Irish Gay Rights Movement, with its phoenix logo rising from the ashes. The movement was based at Temple Bar’s Hirschfeld Centre, which was also home to Dublin’s much-loved Flikkers disco.

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Books Upstairs celebrated 40 years in business this year. This advertisement comes from their first year of business. We wish them every success for the next four decades (they are now on D’Olier Street)

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In the days of cinema censorship, cinema clubs were hugely important. It cost 1.50 to join the Project Cinema Club:

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Larkin

Jer O’Leary as Jim Larkin (Image by Donal Higgins)

Playing Larkin is a pleasure and an honour. Some parts are just performance tasks, but Larkin was one of the finest specimens of humanity; a wonderful mind, great courage with the heart of a lion, unusual vision, and a voice like rolling thunder.

-Jer O’Leary on playing the role of Larkin, Evening Press, January 1980.

There are many difficult audiences in this town, but if you haven’t, you should try explaining the ins and outs of the 1913 Lockout to a room full of school children. Against the backdrop of the centenary of the great dispute, I had the pleasure of trying this. They listened, though how much of it registered has puzzled me since. Following a brief historic overview, the next speaker was Jer O’Leary. The veteran and much-loved Dublin actor shook the walls of the Ringsend school, bringing the words of Jim Larkin to life. I think the children by the end had some sense of the power of the story.

Dubliner Jer O’Leary, the Bard of Drumcondra, lived many lives in one. As an actor, activist, artist and raconteur he was a frequent face on the streets of Dublin. His booming and distinctive voice could be heard across the street over any volume of Dublin traffic. He was, firmly and completely, a man of the Left. In 1967, a 22 year old Jer O’Leary joined the Republican movement, the beginning of a life-long involvement in republican and socialist politics that shaped everything he did.

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O’Leary in the Project in 1986 at an exhibition of his labour movement banners. More on that below.

Football was a great love too. As the book The Lost Revolution rightly notes, “he delighted in reminding GAA devotees that the Dublin IRA’s commander in 1921, Oscar Traynor, had been a soccer player.” O’Leary may well have attended more FAI Cup Finals than Traynor himself, and was present in 1961 when Saint Patrick’s Athletic won the cup in Dalymount Park against his own beloved Drumcondra. Willie Peyton’s heroic goal that day is something I’ve heard of from many Pats fans that were in attendance, but nobody told the tale as well as Jer. Each time I heard the story from him it was as if Peyton was deeper and deeper into his own half. Eventually in the telling, he may as well have been in deepest suburban Cabra kicking a ball in the general direction of the stadium. Whatever the debate about where Peyton kicked from, he was certainly far from goal. When Drumcondra went to the wall, one of the great losses of Irish footballing history, O’Leary retained a grá for association football in Dublin. A great Celtic fan, like his late son Diarmuid who died in tragic circumstances on a trip to see the Hoops, he remained familiar with Dalymount Park as a supporter of Bohs. Still, like all true Drumcondra fans, he answered ‘Drums’ to the question of which Dublin team he supported. Those who kept faith with the sport are now spread across the football grounds of Dublin.

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A Bohemian FC flag produced by Jer O’Leary, bringing together two of his great passions.

As a stage actor, O’Leary came to public prominence thanks to a legendary production of James Plunkett’s The Risen People, directed by Peter and Jim Sheridan. The production did tremendously well in Dublin, but was also taken to London as part of the Sense of Ireland Festival. A 1986 profile piece on O’Leary noted that “his most notorious moment on stage – which is also a legend in Irish circles – was his dramatic playing in Peter Weiss’s work, The Marat Sade.

The play, a Marxist view of the French Revolution, coincided perfectly with O’Leary’s vision for modern day Ireland. But one fine night at the end of the performance, the actor decided that modern Ireland and revolutionary France should bridge the gap of time. He told the packed house in a completely unrehearsed speech that the alleged Sallins train robbers, who were then on trial, were completely innocent. For his ‘unprofessional conduct’ he had to be rescued from the wrath of the cast, whose efforts to hang him fro the highest point of the dressing room were guillotined by the back stage staff.

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There was something about Jer as Larkin that registered deeply with Dubliners, even if the Toxteth-born Scouser developed an accent more akin to Dublin’s north inner-city, the energy was a perfect replica. In 1993 he was centrally involved in the historical commemorations of the Lockout organised by the North Inner City Folkore Project, addressing a huge crowd from the window of Clery’s, and he would revive the role for further historic anniversaries. Countess Markievicz recalled hearing Larkin speak and feeling that she was in the presence of “some great primeval force rather than a man”. To try and be Larkin took a certain confidence, which Jer had in abundance.

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Dublin Pubs (Mid 1980s)

I picked up this book for $5 in the amazing Powell’s bookshop in Portland, Oregon during the summer.

It features 60 full-colour photographs of pubs across Ireland taken by Liam Blake with accompanying text by David Pritchard and Joe Reynolds. It was first published in 1985 with this softback edition republished in 1993.

I’ve included the 15 photographs of Dublin pubs which I am guessing were taken in the 1984-85 period.

The Brazen Head

The Brazen Head, 20 Lower Bridge Street, Merchant’s Quay. We visited this pub in our November 2009 pub crawl.

Doheny & Nesbitt’s

Doheny & Nesbitt’s at 5 Lower Baggot Street near St. Stephen’s Green. A pub we also visited in our November 2009 pub crawl.

Mulligan’s

Mulligan’s (now L. Mulligan Grocer) at 18 Stoneybatter, Dublin 7. A boozer we reviewed in our May 2012 pub crawl.

Slattery’s

 The exterior of Slattery’s, 217 Rathmines Road in Rathmines. A pub we dropped into in our February 2010 pub crawl.

McDaid’s

McDaid’s pub at 3 Harry Street off Grafton Street. Somewhere we visited in June 2010 for a pub crawl.

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1918 Election handbill. The election occurred a century ago today.

It is difficult to imagine political canvassers tossing “rotten eggs, dead cats and rats” at one another today. A century ago this week, that is exactly what happened on the Falls Road in West Belfast, as supporters of the Irish Parliamentary Party candidate, Joe Devlin MP, attempted to drive young Sinn Féin canvassers from the district. The election, described beautifully by one Royal Irish Constabulary report as “the triumph of the young over the old”, pitted a youthful Sinn Féin against an ageing party which had dominated Irish politics for decades. For many tens of thousands of Irish people, it was a first taste of the ballot box in a General Election. The Representation of the People Act, which made its way through the House of Commons earlier that year, had increased the Irish electorate from some 700,000 people to 1.9 million. Here in Dublin, the election produced the first female M.P in the history of Westminster.

Much coverage of the centenary of the 1918 election has focused on the granting of the vote to women (of a certain age and class), though the Representation of the People Act was also transformative in giving a voice to millions of working class men. Now, all men over 21 found themselves entitled to partake in a General Election. It was an unprecedented mass exercise of democracy in these islands, but in Ireland it was dominated by the national question.

The Irish Parliamentary Party had achieved much through its participation in Westminster politics, including meaningful land reforms and the seeming inevitability of Home Rule itself, but buckled before the mass appeal of a young and confident Sinn Féin. In October 1917, Sinn Féin has been transformed into a new fighting machine, spearheaded by Éamon de Valera, elected in the East Clare by-election of 1917. The party jettisoned the ambiguous language of its founder Arthur Griffith’s in favour of that of republican separatism. Now, in its own words, Sinn Féin aimed “at securing the international recognition for Ireland as an independent Irish republic.” Throughout 1917 and 1918, the party had fought a series of bitter by-elections against the Parliamentary Party, with very mixed fortunes. Anger at the very real fear of conscription in 1918 had moved many towards support for the party, while the language of some leading Parliamentary Party figures on the question of women’s suffrage would not have endeared them to sections of the newly enlarged electorate. To John Dillon MP, the vote in the hands of women would “be the ruin of our Western civilisation. It will destroy the home, challenging the headship of man, laid down by God. It may come in your time – I hope not in mine.”

As women made their way into the ballot box for the first time in a General Election setting, they encountered female candidates, providing they lived in either Belfast’s Victoria Ward or Dublin’s Saint Patrick’s Ward. In Belfast, Winifred Carney stood for Sinn Féin. A veteran of Easter Week, Carney had served faithfully as James Connolly’s secretary, earning her place in history as ‘the typist with the webley’. A veteran of Belfast labour politics, her election manifesto stated that she stood for a ‘Worker’s Republic’, which was not Sinn Féin policy. There was little desire to stop her expressing that ambition, and in the decidedly Unionist electorate, she came away with a mere 539 votes. In Dublin, Countess Markievicz was elected, becoming the first female MP in the history of the Westminster parliament. Markiecicz took her seat from the Parnellite William Field, in office since 1892 – ironically, he himself was a something of a suffragist and had supported votes for women – it proved his undoing in the end.

There were tensions between Sinn Féin and the Irish Women’s Franchise League, who felt the party had not stood enough women, or supported the women who stood sufficiently. Markiecicz’s campaign on the ground was curiously absent – while she herself was in prison – IWFL leaders complained in private about a perceived lack of enthusiasm in the constituency from Sinn Féin. Margaret Connery of the IWFL complained to Hanna Sheehy Skeffington that “the very nerve of Sinn Fein sets my teeth on edge… Why should the work be left to the chance care of outsiders as they are so fond of calling us.” Still, the election of Markievicz was a triumph for both the women’s movement and the national movement, and emerged as one of the international headlines of the election.

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Constance Markievicz, elected in Dublin’s Saint Patrick’s Ward.

What violence did occur happened largely in West Belfast and Waterford, where the IPP had strong bases. Kevin O’Shiel, having gone north to canvas for de Valera in West Belfast, recalled:

I shall never forget that wild, yelling, maddened Hibernian mob that pelted us for two hours with sticks, stones, rivets, rotten eggs, dead cats and rats. Only for a strong draft of Volunteers and, later, some belated help from reinforced R.I.C., I doubt if any of us would have survived intact.

The hostility of the Ancient Order of Hibernians to youthful Sinn Féin canvassers there was unlike anything witnessed elsewhere. It took uniformed men to police and protect Sinn Féin meetings in the district. Patrick J. Whelan, a Harland and Wolff worker and a local Irish Volunteer, remembered that:

During the general election of 1918, C. company acted as bodyguard for Sinn Féin. election speakers. The speakers wont by brake from meeting to meeting in the Falls Road division, and rather rowdy meetings were held. The opposition was provided mostly by mill workers and not the Orange mobs. These mill workers were enthusiastic supporters of Joseph Devlin, the Nationalist M.P. for West Belfast. At one of the meetings which was held in King Street, Belfast, I was struck on the head by a brick and rendered unconscious. When I recovered, I was brought to a first-aid station on the Falls Road, and had my injury attended to by local Cumann na mBan.

Absent from proceedings were the Irish Labour Party. In popular history, this boils down to the idea that ‘Labour must wait’, and that the party were somehow brushed aside prior to polling. In reality, the party leadership had initially intended to contest the election, but later stepped aside of their own volition. The national executive of the party voted 96 to 23 not to contest the election. Jason Knirck has suggested that Labour leaders “may have feared a decisive defeat for their party if they had entered the election. Cooperating with Sinn Féin, even as a junior party, was preferable to the delegitimation of the entire cause. while Labour did gain some concessions from this agreement, it also simplified Sinn Féin’s recurrent claim to speak for the entire Irish nationalist population.” The party would perform incredibly well in the local elections of 1920, and see 17 of their 18 candidates elected in the 1922 General Election following the birth of the state. If 1918 was Labour’s great missed opportunity is a question that has been pondered for a century now.

Dublin offered some interesting results. Here, the only Unionist MP’s outside of Ulster were elected, with two Unionist seats in Trinity College Dublin and the victory of Maurice Dockrell in Rathmines. For southern Unionism, the election had been a disaster, and at a crisis meeting in the Freemason’s Hall shortly after the election the tone was downbeat. 79,000 votes were cast in Dublin for Sinn Féin candidates, who took eight of the nine contested seats in the capital.

In the end, the IPP won six seats across the island, only one of which, Waterford City, was outside Ulster. The British ‘First Past the Post’ system makes their result look truly dismal; in reality, Votes cast for the IPP were 220,837 (21.7%) for 6 seats (down from 84 out of 105 seats in 1910). Sinn Féin votes were 476,087 (or 46.9%). In many parts of Ireland, the status quo held up. Some IPP candidates received only marginally smaller votes than they had in 1910, but were swept aside by the enormous new electorate. The significant number of uncontested seats is sometimes pointed to as evidence of Sinn Féin intimidation of opponents, though in reality there were less seats uncontested than in the previous General Election.

On 21 January 1919, elected representatives of the Sinn Féin party met in Dublin’s Mansion House, proclaiming themselves to be the legitimate government of Ireland. Reading a roll call that included Unionist MP’s like Lord Edward Carson (unsurprisingly as lathair, or absent!), the gathering constituted just 27 parliamentarians, with many others imprisoned or exiled.

The meeting was loaded with political symbolism. Choosing the Mansion House, residence of the Lord Mayor of Dublin and a centre of civic political leadership, the parliamentarians sought to present themselves as statesmen before the world. Their ‘Message to the Free Nations of the World’ was read in Irish, English and French, seeking to place Ireland in the post-war Europe of peace, as she believed “permanent peace of Europe can never be secured by perpetuating military dominion for the profit of empire”.

On the same day that the Dáil met, the opening shots of the War of Independence were fired in the Soloheadbeg ambush in county Tipperary. This occurred without the sanction of the Dáil, with IRA leader Dan Breen recounting that “Seán Treacy had stated to me that the only way of starting a war was to kill someone, and we wanted to start a war.” In the eyes of the world’s media however, the two events were intrinsically linked, and Ireland was now at war.

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