28/12/1918 Ireland’s election results: Sinn Féin landslide and the first woman elected to the House of Commons #1918

Ireland voted on 14 December as part of the United Kingdom’s first general election since 1911. Today the votes are finally counted and the results reveal that Sinn Féin has definitively supplanted the Irish Parliamentary Party as the voice of Irish nationalism, with the IPP winning just 6 seats to Sinn Féin’s 73. John Dillon, the IPP’s leader, loses his East Mayo seat to Sinn Féín leader Éamon de Valera, who is currently in prison in England after being arrested earlier this year on suspicion of involvement in an outlandish German plot to invade Ireland. Unionist parties meanwhile dominate in the north east of the country, where many Protestant voters fear the consequences of self-rule in mainly Catholic Ireland. This is also where the Irish Parliamentary Party wins most of its seats; IPP candidates are more used to battling on against adverse circumstances here.

Apart from the north east, the electoral map of Ireland is now a sea of dark green, representing Sinn Féin victories. The only exceptions to the Sinn Féin sweep are Waterford City, where William Redmond is elected to the seat previously held by the late John Redmond, his father and the former leader of the IPP, and Rathmines in Dublin, where Unionist candidate Maurice Dockrell is elected.

Two women ran for Sinn Féin and one of these, Constance Markievicz, is elected. Like De Valera she played a leading role in the 1916 Rising and like him she is also currently in jail in England.

Sinn Féin candidates have secured election on an abstentionist ticket: they have promised not to take their seats in Westminster but instead to assemble as an Irish parliament in Dublin. Now those elected Sinn Féin representatives who are not on the run or in jail prepare to meet in January as the first sitting of a sovereign Irish parliament, to be known in the Irish language as Dáil Éireann.

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Sinn Féin election poster (RTÉ: Election 1918 – what you need to know about how Ireland voted)

Constance Markievicz (Wikipedia: Constance Markievicz)

21/4/1918 Nationalist and Catholic Ireland unites against conscription #1918Live

The German offensives on the Western Front are taking a heavy toll on the British. Every man is needed refill the depleted ranks of its force on the Continent. Britain introduced conscription in 1916 but did not extend it to Ireland, fearful of the consequences in that restive part of the United Kingdom. Now the army’s desperate need for more men has turned attentions back to Ireland’s exemption from the draft.

The authorities in Ireland continue to warn of the dangers of forcing men into the army, but they are not heeded in London. Parliament has passed a new law allowing for the extension of conscription to Ireland (with older men across the United Kingdom also being subject to the draft, such is the army’s need for manpower). It looks like it will not be long before Irishmen are being rounded up and sent to die in France and Belgium.

The threat of conscription has the effect of uniting broad swathes of hitherto mutually hostile Irish opinion. At a conference in Dublin on the 18th hosted by Lord Mayor Laurence O’Neill, representatives of Sinn Féin, the more moderate Irish Parliamentary Party, the Labour Party, the trade unions and smaller parties formed the Irish Anti-Conscription Committee, agreeing to oppose conscription by any means at their disposal.

Today rallies are held across the country to oppose conscription. It is a Sunday, so much of the focus is on meetings at the church gate. The Catholic Church is wary of involvement in politics, save in defence of its own interests, but so broad is opposition to conscription that it lends its support to the struggle. Protests against conscription happen within the churches as well as at their gates, with many priests denouncing enforced enlistment from the pulpit.

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Members of the Irish Anti-Conscription Committee (Wikipedia: Conscription Crisis of 1918)

6/3/1918 John Redmond dies, once Ireland’s leading politician, now almost an irrelevance #1918Live

Before the war John Redmond, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, dominated Irish politics. Through his alliance with Asquith and the Liberals he appeared to be on the brink of achieving self-government for Ireland, with Asquith committed to introducing Home Rule despite the opposition of the House of Lords, Ulster Unionists and elements within the British army. The outbreak of war allowed Asquith to delay Home Rule for the conflict’s duration. To hasten the war’s end and to win Ireland favour with the British government, Redmond encouraged Irishmen to join the British army, which they did in great numbers.

Today Redmond dies, of complications following an operation. The political tide has gone out for him and on his deathbed he reputedly tells a visiting priest that he is a broken-hearted man. The war has claimed the life of his brother, while the ever-lengthening casualty lists have engendered hostility to people like Redmond who encouraged enlistment. The British response to the Easter Rising of 1916 has turned many against any link to London. The rise of Sinn Féin means that Redmond’s support for Home Rule (limited self-government within the United Kingdom) seems like a feeble half-step. As Redmond dies he is now almost an irrelevance.

Redmond had already stepped down as leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party. His successor is John Dillon, who will have his work cut out if he is to arrest the rise of Sinn Féin and ensure his party’s remains at the centre of Irish politics.

image source (Wikipedia)

30/4/1917 Outlandish reports of the German Corpse Factory continue to cause a sensation

Fanciful reports that the Germans are rendering corpses as sources for scarce war materials have caused a sensation in Britain. Despite having no basis in reality, rumours of the Corpse Factory have led to lurid reporting in the British press and are presented as further evidence that there are no depths to which the Hun will not sink.

Not everyone is taken in by this nonsense. Speaking in parliament, the Irish politician John Dillon suggests that allowing these patently false stories to gain credence the British government is undermining its own credibility. But in reply Lord Cecil, the junior foreign minister, declines to discount reports of the Corpse Factory, arguing that such reports are not incredible in light of previous actions by the Germans. His statement stops short of anything that could later be used to accuse him of lying to parliament.

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“And don’t forget that your Kaiser will find a use for you—alive or dead.” (Wikipedia, originally from Punch 25 April 1917)

12/5/1916 Dublin: the last rebels executed

In Dublin the courts-martial and executions of participants in the recent rebellion have been continuing. Each execution must first be approved by General Maxwell, the military governor. Execution is meant to be reserved for ringleaders of the revolt, but Maxwell takes a generous view of who counts as a commander of rebellion.

Pearse, Connolly, Clarke and the other signatories of the rebels’ proclamation of independence have all now been shot, but so have some of the Rising’s smaller fish. Seán Heuston commanded a small detachment that was forced to surrender early in the revolt; he is now dead. James MacBride was only second-in-command of the rebel garrison at the Jacob’s Biscuit Factory, but he has long been a thorn in the side of the British so they are happy to send him to the firing squad. And Willie Pearse’s role in the revolt was pretty insignificant, but he is executed essentially for being Patrick Pearse’s brother.

The executions have led to increasing disquiet in Ireland and have begun to engender a sympathy for the rebels that was lacking during their revolt. In London, John Dillon of the Irish Parliamentary Party condemns the executions in the House of Commons while his party’s leader John Redmond makes representations to Asquith, the prime minister. Asquith is slow to act but now he obliges Maxwell to halt the firing squads. Seán Mac Diarmada and James Connolly die today, the firing squads’ last victims; Connolly is executed sitting in a chair as wounds sustained in the rebellion prevent him from standing.
The remaining rebels who were facing death have their sentences commuted to penal servitude for life. The most senior remaining rebel is Éamon de Valera, who had commanded the garrison at Boland’s Mill. Another prominent survivor is Constance Markievicz of the Irish Citizen Army, who was second in command at St. Stephen’s Green.

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Execution (Militaria Archive)

James Connolly execution (The Daily Edge)