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)

28/12/1918 Britain’s votes are counted: Lloyd George’s coalition wins a landslide victory #1918Live

Two weeks ago the United Kingdom held its first election since 1911. Because of the large numbers of postal ballots from men serving overseas with the armed forces, the votes are only counted today. And the result is a landslide victory for the Conservatives and Prime Minister Lloyd George‘s faction of the Liberals. Lloyd George has just led the country to victory against Germany, so it is perhaps not too surprising that voters have rallied to him and his Conservative allies.

Asquith‘s faction of the Liberals win an impressive number of votes (only slightly less than Lloyd George’s) but lose most of their seats; Asquith himself fails to secure re-election. Aside from the coalition’s popularity, Asquith suffers from his own association with the less successful early years of the war. His long opposition to votes for women may also have counted against him now that women are voting for the first time. Labour meanwhile win more seats than the Asquith Liberals and substantially more votes than Lloyd George’s Liberals; although they are only the fourth largest party in parliament, their power is clearly on the rise.

Although women now have the vote, the election is not a particularly successful one for women candidates. Christabel Pankhurst, a leading suffragette, narrowly fails to secure election and is defeated by John Davison of Labour. The only one of the sixteen women’s candidates elected is Constance Markievicz of Sinn Féin. Markievicz stood on an abstentionist ticket and is currently in jail, so she will not be taking her seat in the House of Commons.

Markievicz was elected in Ireland. The results there have followed an entirely different pattern to the rest of the United Kingdom.

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David Lloyd George (Wikipedia: David Lloyd George)

Constance Markievicz (Badass of the Week)

Results map (Wikipedia: 1918 United Kingdom general election)

14/12/1918 Ireland also votes #1918Live

Ireland is also voting today, as part of the British general election. Politics is different on this island, however, with the issue of the country’s future relationship to Britain exercising voters greatly. The previously dominant Irish Parliamentary Party is now under threat from the insurgent Sinn Féin, whose advanced nationalism strikes a chord with many. The Irish Parliamentary Party’s candidates hope that if elected to Westminster they will be able to press Ireland’s interests there. Sinn Féin however has declared that if elected its candidates will not take their seats in the House of Commons but instead will meet in Dublin as an Irish parliament, thereby paving the way for Irish independence. Many of Sinn Féin’s leaders are still in jail after being arrested earlier this year over an alleged plot to assist a German invasion, so if elected they will not be able to take seats in either London or Dublin. Nevertheless the party hopes that it will see enough candidates elected to be able to assemble an Irish national parliament.

Unionists are also contesting the election, but mostly in the north east of Ireland where they are strongest. They favour Ireland’s continued membership of the United Kingdom and their mainly Protestant supporters fear the consequences of self government in a predominantly Catholic Ireland. The Irish Labour Party meanwhile has opted not to field candidates, in order to allow voters a straight choice between the IPP and Sinn Féin. A number of Unionist Labour candidates are standing for election in the north east; this group is essentially an offshoot of the Unionists, designed to keep Protestant workers on the Unionist straight and narrow and to prevent their succumbing to the temptations of socialism or Bolshevism.

Like their British counterparts, Irish women are now able to vote (if over 30 years of age and meeting certain property requirements) and run for election. Sinn Féin is the only party putting forward women candidates, Winifred Carney in Belfast and Constance Markievicz in Dublin. Markievicz is currently in prison in England.

As with the rest of the United Kingdom, although Ireland is voting today it will not be until the 28th of December that the results are known. This is because of the large numbers of voters who are still serving abroad with the British armed forces.

20/6/1918 Arthur Griffith wins East Cavan by-election from his English prison cell #1918Live

British plans to introduce conscription in Ireland have alienated wide swathes of opinion there. After a series of strikes and demonstrations against the measure, plus pledges by Irish women not to take the jobs of conscripted men, the British authorities have back pedalled on their plans and effectively abandoned plans to draft Irishmen. The successful resistance to the German offensives on the Western Front and the increasing numbers of US troops arriving in Europe have in any case reduced the need for Irish soldiers.

Nevertheless, Ireland remains tense. Sinn Féin leaders have been arrested by the British, accused of treacherous plotting in support of a German invasion of Ireland. One of these is Arthur Griffith, founder of the party but no longer its leader. Today he finds himself elected to the House of Commons in a by-election held in the East Cavan constituency, where the sitting MP had died. Griffith soundly defeats the candidate from the more moderate Irish Parliamentary Party, reversing a run of by-election defeats suffered by his party.

Sinn Féin’s policy is for its MPs to not take their seats in Westminster. The British authorities assist Griffith in this regard, preventing him from leaving Gloucester jail.

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poster (Fr Michael O’Flanagan, from Cliffoney to Crosna: Fr O’Flanagan’s Suppressed Speech, May 1918)

17/5/1918 Sinn Féin leaders arrested as Britain strikes against “German plot” #1918Live

Ireland is in a tumult thanks to British plans to introduce conscription. Nationalist parties Sinn Féin and the Irish Parliamentary Party have joined forces with the Catholic Church and organised labour to oppose the measure.

Despite the opposition and warnings from senior figures in the local administration, London is determined to bring conscription to Ireland; such is the desperate need of new recruits to make good the losses suffered in the German spring offensives. Lord French (previously the British commander on the Western Front) has been appointed Lord Lieutenant in Ireland. A member of the Anglo-Irish gentry, French is convinced that firm measures will bring the lower orders to heel.

Some of the British suspect a German hand in the unrest in Ireland. Joseph Dowling, captured after a U-boat landed him in the west of Ireland, has spun a tall tale about Sinn Féin leaders being in league with Berlin and preparing for a German invasion of the Emerald Isle. Lord French himself is sceptical, as are others, but Dowling’s story finds a receptive audience in London. The British decide to nip this plot in the bud by rounding up the Sinn Féin leaders before they can get up to any further mischief.

Now the British strike. Ireland wakes up this morning to learn that more than 70 leading members of Sinn Féin have been arrested, including Éamon de Valera, Constance Markievicz and Arthur Griffith. The British hope that this bold step will decapitate the troublesome party and bring an end to the unrest in Ireland.

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Some of the arrested Sinn Féin leaders (Ireland’s Own: The German Plot)

23/4/1918 Ireland strikes against conscription as London prepares a crackdown #1918Live

Ireland is in a tumult over British plans to extend conscription there. After rallies were held across the country two days ago, today the country is engulfed in a general strike against conscription called by the Irish Trade Union Congress. The strike is hugely successful with shops, factories, railways and even pubs closing across the country. The one area that remains largely immune from the strike is the north-east, where pro-British sentiment remains strong among the Protestant and Unionist community.

The strike is disconcerting to the British authorities, who note the involvement of the subversive Sinn Féin party in the anti-conscription campaign. Meanwhile in London Joseph Dowling, who was arrested in Galway in mysterious circumstances, is under interrogation by British intelligence officers. The British promise to spare Dowling’s life if he co-operates; in return he confesses that he is a former British soldier who joined Roger Casement‘s Irish Brigade after being captured by the Germans. He further reveals that he was transported to Ireland by German U-boat and tells his interrogators that he was sent to liaise with Sinn Féin leaders in advance of a forthcoming German invasion of Ireland.

Dowling’s fanciful tale of a Sinn Féin plot to assist a German invasion finds a receptive audience in London. British leaders now make plans to decapitate Sinn Féin by rounding up its troublesome leaders. Perhaps in so doing they will also break the back of the anti-conscription movement.

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First Irish Conscript (National Library of Ireland, @NLIreland on Twitter)

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)