Prelude to the Easter Rising of 1916

Prelude to the Easter Rising of 1916
The Signatories of the Proclamation

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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Members of the First Dáil - Ernest Blythe

Ernest Blyth - 1st Row Far Right

Ernest Blythe (Irish: Earnán de Blaghd; 13 April 1889 – 23 February 1975) was an Irish politician.
Ernest Blythe was born to a Presbyterian and Unionist family near Lisburn, County Antrim in 1889, the son of a farmer, and was educated locally. At the age of fifteen he started working as a clerk in the Department of Agriculture in Dublin.

Blythe joined the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Republican Brotherhood. He also joined the Gaelic League, where his Irish teacher was Sinéad Flanagan, the future wife of Éamon de Valera. In 1909, Blythe became a junior news reporter with the North Down Herald.

Blythe soon became involved in the activities of the Irish Volunteers. This led to years of arrests, imprisonment, and hunger strikes. He spent the Easter Rising of 1916 in prison. In the general election of 1918 Blythe was elected as a Teachta Dála (TD) for North Monaghan. From then until 1922 he served as Minister for Industry & Commerce. Blythe was a strong supporter of the Anglo-Irish Treaty and in 1923 he became Minister for Finance in President W. T. Cosgrave's first government.

He married Anne McHugh in 1919.

Blythe was committed to keeping a balanced budget at all costs, which was not at all easy. The Irish Civil War had placed an enormous strain on the nascent Free State, with public spending almost doubling in the previous twelve months. As a result, Blythe was confronted with a projected budget of more than £8 million for the coming year when the national debt already stood at £6 million. He did however fund the Ardnacrusha or Shannon Scheme. But there was widespread criticism when he reduced old-age pensions from 10 shillings (50p) to 9 shillings (45p) a week. Blythe also served as Minister for Posts and Telegraphs and Vice-President of the Executive Council. In the 1933 general election Blythe lost his seat.

Blythe was a senior figure in the Blueshirts and his support for the fascist leader Eoin O'Duffy as leader of that organisation (and of the Fine Gael party) left him a marginal figure, once Fine Gael rid itself of O'Duffy.

He served in the Senate until the institution was abolished in 1936. He then retired from politics.
Throughout his life he was committed to the revival of the Irish language. He encouraged Micheál MacLiammóir and Hilton Edwards to found an Irish language theatre in Galway.

Between 1941 and 1967 he served as managing director of the Abbey Theatre. It was said that he rejected many good plays in favour of those which were more financially rewarding. In 1957, he published an autobiographical account of his life until 1913. Ernest Blythe died in Dublin on 23 February 1975, aged 85.

Members of the First Dáil - W. T. Cosgrave

W. T. Cosgrave

William Thomas Cosgrave (Irish: Liam Tomás Mac Cosgair; 6 June 1880 – 16 November 1965), known generally as W.T. Cosgrave, was an Irish politician who succeeded Michael Collins as Chairman of the Irish Provisional Government from August to December 1922. He served as the first President of the Executive Council (Head of government) of the Irish Free State from 1922 to 1932.

The leader of independent Ireland for the first 10 years of its existence, Cosgrave was one of the most experienced politicians in the first Dáil. Born in Dublin, he took part in the foundation of Sinn Féin in 1905.

He was elected to Dublin City Council in 1909. He joined the Volunteers in 1913 and took part in the Rising, serving in the South Dublin Union (St James’s Hospital). Jailed afterwards, he was released in the general amnesty of 1917, won a by-election in Kilkenny city in August 1917 and was elected in 1918.

Sinn Féin proved to be the big winner of the election in Ireland, capturing 73 Irish seats, 25 uncontested. Its manifesto promised abstentionism from the House of Commons in Westminster. On 21 January 1919, Sinn Féin's MPs who were not imprisoned assembled in the Round Room of the Mansion House in Dublin and formed themselves into an Assembly of Ireland, known in the Irish language as Dáil Éireann. Cathal Brugha became Príomh Aire (First or Prime Minister), also called President of Dáil Éireann.

In April 1919, Brugha resigned and Éamon de Valera, the Sinn Féin leader, who had just escaped from prison with the help of Michael Collins, assumed the premiership instead. The new government and state, known as the Irish Republic, claimed a right to govern the island of Ireland. It also declared UDI, that is, a declaration of independence which remained until the end of the Republic unrecognised by any other world state except the Russian Republic under Lenin.

Unable to attend the first meeting of the Dáil as he was in jail, Cosgrave was appointed minister for local government when de Valera took over in April, 1919. After the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed in December 1921, three of the seven- member cabinet supported it and three were opposed. Cosgrave’s position was crucial but he supported Griffith and the cabinet voted four- three in favour. The Dáil followed suit on an equally tight margin of 64 to 57.

When Griffith and Collins died in August, 1922, Cosgrave took over as leader of government. He remained leader for the first 10 years of the State’s existence.

W.T. Cosgrave was a small, quiet man, and at 42 was the oldest member of the Cabinet. He had not sought the leadership of the new country but once it was his he made good use of it. One of his chief priorities was to hold the new country together and to prove that the Irish could govern themselves. Some historians have noted that he lacked vision as a leader and was surrounded by men who were more capable than himself. However, over his ten years as President he provided the emerging Irish state with an able leader who had a sound judgement on the matters of state that the new country was facing.

As head of the Free State government during the Civil War, he was ruthless in what he saw as defence of the state against his former republican comrades. Although he actually disagreed with the use of the death penalty in principle, in October 1922 he enacted a Public Safety Bill, which allowed for the execution of anyone who was captured bearing arms against the state or aiding armed attacks on state forces. He told the Dáil on 27 September 1922, "although I have always objected to the death penalty, there is no other way that I know of in which ordered conditions can be restored in this country, or any security obtained for our troops, or to give our troops any confidence in us as a government".

Cosgrave's position was that a guerrilla war could drag on indefinitely, making the achievement of law and order and establishing the Free State impossible, if harsh action was not taken. His reputation suffered after he ordered the execution without trial of republican prisoners during the civil war.

In all, 77 republicans were executed by the Free State between November 1922 and the end of the war in May 1923, including Robert Erskine Childers, Liam Mellowes and Rory O'Connor, far more than the 14 IRA Volunteers the British executed in the War of Independence. The Republican side, for their part, attacked pro-Treaty politicians and their homes and families. Cosgrave's family home was burned down by Anti-Treaty fighters and an uncle of his was shot dead.

In April 1923, the Pro-Treaty Sinn Féin members organised a new political party called Cumann na nGaedhael with Cosgrave as leader. The following month the civil war was brought to an end, when the remaining Anti-Treaty IRA guerrillas announced a ceasefire and dumped their arms.
In the first few years in power Cosgrave's new government faced a number of problems. Firstly, the government attempted to reduce the size of the Irish Army.

During the civil war, it had grown to over 55,000 men which, now that the civil war was over, was far too large and costly to maintain. However, some army officers challenged the authority of the government to cut the size of the Army. The officers, mostly Pro-Treaty IRA men, were angry that the government was not doing enough to help to create a republic and also there would be massive unemployment.

In March 1924, more layoffs were expected and the army officers, Major-General Liam Tobin and Colonel Charles Dalton sent an ultimatum to the government demanding an end to the demobilisation. Kevin O'Higgins, the Minister for Justice, who was also acting President for Cosgrave while the latter was in hospital, moved to resolve the so-called "Army Mutiny". Richard Mulcahy, the Minister for Defence, resigned and O'Higgins was victorious in a very public power struggle within Cumann na nGaedhael. The crisis within the army was solved but the government was divided.

In 1924, the British and Irish governments agreed to attend the "Boundary Commission" to redraw the border which partitioned Ireland between the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland. The Free State's representative was Eoin MacNeill, a respected scholar and Minister for Education. The Free State expected to gain much territory in heavily Catholic and republican parts of counties Londonderry, Fermanagh, Tyrone, and Armagh, as the British government had indicated during the treaty negotiations that the wishes of the nationalist inhabitants along the border would be taken into account. However, after months of secret negotiations a newspaper reported that there would be little change to the border and the Free State would actually lose territory in Donegal.

MacNeill resigned from the commission and the government for not reporting to Cosgrave on the details of the commission. Cosgrave immediately went to London for a meeting with the British Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, where they agreed to let the border remain as it was, and in return the Free State did not have to pay its pro-rata share of the Imperial debt. In the Dáil debate on 7 December Cosgrave stated: "I had only one figure in my mind and that was a huge nought. That was the figure I strove to get, and I got it."

Cosgrave notably turned down a plea for asylum in Ireland for Leon Trotsky while in exile. The request was made by the trade union leader William X. O'Brien in 1930. Cosgrave told O'Brien

Told him [O'Brien] "I could see no reason why Trotsky should be considered by us. Russian bonds had been practically confiscated. He said there was to be consideration of them. I said it was not by Trotsky, whose policy was the reverse. I asked his nationality. Reply Jew. They were against religion (he said that was modified). I said not by Trotsky. He said he had hoped there would be an asylum here as in England for all. I agreed that under normal conditions, which we had not here, that would be alright. But we had no touch with this man or his Government, nor did they interest themselves in us in his 'day'.

A general election was not necessary until the end of 1932, however, Cosgrave called one for February of that year. There was growing unrest in the country and a fresh mandate was needed for an important Commonwealth meeting in the summer. Cumann na nGaedhael fought the election on its record of providing ten years of honest government and political and economic stability. Instead of developing new policies the party played the "red card" by portraying the new party, Fianna Fáil, as communists. Fianna Fáil offered the electorate a fresh and popular manifesto of social reform. Unable to compete with this Cosgrave and his party lost the election, and a minority Fianna Fáil government came to power. In 1932, Fianna Fáil won, and de Valera took power.

Following the general election, Cosgrave assumed the nominal role of Leader of the Opposition. Fianna Fáil were expected to have a short tenure in government, however, this turned out to be a sixteen year period of rule by the new party. In 1933 three groups, Cumann na nGaedhael, the National Centre Party and the National Guard came together to form a new political force, Fine Gael - the United Ireland Party. Cosgrave became the first parliamentary leader of the new party, serving until his retirement in 1944. During that period, the new party failed to win a general election. Cosgrave retired as leader of the party and from politics in 1944.

Members of the First Dáil - Eoin MacNeill

Eoin MacNeill

Eoin MacNeill (May 15, 1867 - October 15, 1945) was an Irish scholar and revolutionary.MacNeill was appointed to the cabinet at the first meeting of the Dáil, despite having attempted to prevent the 1916 Rising.

MacNeill was born in Glenarm, County Antrim. He was educated in Belfast at the Royal University. MacNeill had an enormous interest in Irish history and immersed himself in the study of it. In 1893, he founded the Gaelic League with Douglas Hyde. He became editor of its newspaper - Gaelic Journal. In 1908 MacNeill was appointed professor of early Irish history at University College Dublin.

Through the Gaelic League MacNeill met members of Sinn Féin. He became chairman of the council that formed the Irish Volunteers in 1913. He later became chief of staff.

He was educated at St Malachy’s College and the Royal University. His primary interests were Irish language and history and he was one of the founders of the Gaelic League in 1893. In 1908, on the establishment of the National University of Ireland, he was appointed professor of early Irish history at UCD.

MacNeill founded the Irish Volunteers in 1913 and was opposed to an armed rising unless it had realistic prospects of success. MacNeill was vehemently opposed to the idea of an armed rebellion as he saw little hope of success. When he discovered the Irish Republican Brotherhood conspiracy to send the Volunteers into action on Easter Sunday, 1916, he issued a countermanding order, but the Rising went ahead.

However, the IRB went ahead with its plans of an armed rebellion with the co-operation of James Connolly and the Citizen Army. Pádraig Pearse and some other Volunteer members supported this move also. Easter Sunday, April 23, 1916, was the day the revolution was to be staged. MacNeill heard about this the previous Thursday and agreed. However, on learning of the arrest of Roger Casement and the interception of German arms he ordered an immediated end to the rising. Pearse, Connolly and the others all agreed that they must go ahead with the rising - it began on Monday, April 24, 1916. After the surrender MacNeill was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment.

MacNeill was released in 1917 and was elected MP in 1918 for the NUI, appointed as minister for finance on the first day of the Dáil and moved to industry in April. In 1921, he supported the Anglo-Irish Treaty and was an influential figure in the first Free State government. Following this he became Minister for Education in the first government of the Irish Free State. In 1924, he was appointed to the Boundary Commission to re-negotiate the border between Northern Ireland and the Free State, he was made the scapegoat for its failure and resigned from cabinet.

In December 1925, the Free State government agreed with the British government that the boundary included the entire six counties. This angered many nationalists and MacNeill was the subject of much criticism. He was forced to resign as minister and he lost his Dáil seat in 1927.

He retired from politics completely and became Chairman of the Irish Manuscripts Commission. He published a number of books on Irish history. In his later years, he devoted his life to scholarship.

Eoin MacNeill died in Dublin.

Members of the First Dáil - Count Plunkett

Count George Noble Plunkett

BORN GEORGE Noble in Dublin and made a Papal count as a young man, he was the father of executed 1916 leader, Joseph Mary Plunkett. He was elected to the House of Commons on an abstentionist ticket at a by-election in Roscommon North in February, 1917.

Plunkett spent much of his early adult years abroad studying in Nice and Italy. He was made a Papal count in 1877 mainly in recognition of building work done for the Papacy.

He was curator of the National Museum from 1907-1916 but his interest in politics came from his sons, Joseph, George and John. The execution of Joseph in 1916 radicalised Plunkett and he was sworn in as a member of the IRB. He stood in a by-election in 1917, representing a broad front of nationalist organisations but allegedly had to be persuaded not to take his seat at Westminster.

Elected again in 1918, he was appointed minister for foreign affairs at the first meeting of the Dáil but his influence declined once de Valera and Griffith took control of political developments and he was eased out of the cabinet.

He was anti-Treaty during the Civil War and retained his seat as an abstentionist Republican. He did not join Fianna Fáil when de Valera broke with Sinn Féin in 1926. He stood for Sinn Féin in the first election of 1927 but lost his seat.

In a 1936 by-election in the Galway constituency, Plunkett ran as a joint Cumann Poblachta na hÉireann/Sinn Féin candidate. Losing his deposit, he polled 2,696 votes (a 2.1% share). In 1938, he was one of the former members of the Second Dáil that assigned a claimed residual sovereign power to the IRA, a process known as Irish republican legitimatism.

He was married to Mary Josephine Cranny and they had seven children. He died at the age of 96 in Ireland.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Members of the First Dáil - Arthur Griffith

Arthur Griffith's Funeral 16 September 1922

Arthur Griffith

Arthur Griffith (Irish: Art Ó Gríobhtha; 31 March 1872 – 12 August 1922) was the founder and third leader of Sinn Féin. He served as President of Dáil Éireann from January to August 1922, and was head of the Irish delegation at the negotiations in London that produced the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921.

Griffith was elected a Sinn Féin MP in the Cavan East by-election of mid-1918 when he asked William O'Brien to move the writ for his candidacy, and held the seat when Sinn Féin subsequently routed the Irish Parliamentary Party at the 1918 general election. In that election he was also returned for the seat of Tyrone North West.

Sinn Féin's MPs decided not to take their seats in the British House of Commons but instead set up an Irish parliament, Dáil Éireann; the Irish War of Independence followed almost immediately. The dominant leaders in the new unilaterally declared Irish Republic were figures like Éamon de Valera, President of Dáil Éireann (1919–21), President of the Republic (1921–1922), and Michael Collins, Minister for Finance, head of the IRB and the Irish Republican Army's Director of Intelligence.

During de Valera's absence in the United States (1919–21) Griffith served as Acting President and gave regular press interviews. He was imprisoned in December 1920 but was subsequently released on 30 June 1921.

Griffith became central to the Republic again when, in October 1921, President de Valera asked him to head the delegation of Irish plenipotentiaries to negotiate with the British government. The delegates set up Headquarters in Hans Place, London. After nearly 2 months of negotiations it was there, in private conversations, that the delegates finally decided to recommend the Treaty to the Dáil Éireann on 5 December 1921; negotiations closed at 2.20am on 6 December 1921. Griffith was the member of the treaty delegation most supportive of its eventual outcome, a compromise based on dominion status, rather than a republic. After the ratification by 64 votes to 57 of the Anglo-Irish Treaty by the Second Dáil on 7 January 1922, he replaced de Valera, who stepped down in protest as President of the soon-to-be abolished Irish Republic. A vote was held on 9 January to choose between Griffith or De Valera, which De Valera lost by 58 to 60. A second ratification of the Treaty by the House of Commons of Southern Ireland followed shortly afterwards. Griffith was, however, to a great extent merely a figurehead as President of the second Dáil Éireann and his relations with Michael Collins, head of the new Provisional Government were somewhat tense.

Suffering from overwork and strain after the long and difficult negotiations with the British government, and the work involved in establishing the Free State government, Griffith entered St. Vincent's Nursing Home, Dublin, during the first week of August 1922, following an acute attack of tonsilitis. He was confined to a room in St Vincent's by his doctors, who had observed signs of what they thought might be a subarachnoid hemorrhage, but it was difficult to keep him quiet, and he resumed his daily work in the government building. He had been about to leave for his office shortly before 10 am on 12 August 1922, when he paused to retie his shoelace and fell down unconscious. He regained consciousness, but collapsed again with blood coming from his mouth. Three doctors rendered assistance, but to no avail. Father John Lee of the Marist Fathers administered extreme unction, and Griffith expired as the priest recited the concluding prayer. The cause of death was reported as being due to heart failure. He died at the age of 50, ten days before Michael Collins' assassination in County Cork. He was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery four days later.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Members of the First Dáil - Cathal Brugha

Headstone of Cathal Brugha

Cathal Brugha

We spoke of Cathal during the Rising. Here we will look inot his time after the Rising:

Brugha organised an amalgamation of the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army into the Irish Republican Army (IRA). He proposed a Republican constitution at the 1917 Sinn Féin convention which was unanimously accepted. In October 1917 he became Chief of Staff of the Irish Republican Army and held that post until March 1919.

He was elected as a Sinn Féin MP for the County Waterford constituency at the 1918 general election. In January 1919, Sinn Féin MPs refused to recognise the Parliament of the United Kingdom and instead assembled at the Mansion House in Dublin as a revolutionary parliament called Dáil Éireann. Due to the absence of Éamon de Valera and Arthur Griffith, Brugha presided over the first meeting of Dáil Éireann on 21 January 1919.

He was known for his bitter enmity towards Michael Collins, who, although nominally only the IRA's Director of Intelligence, had far more influence in the organisation as a result of his position as a high ranking member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, an organisation that Brugha saw as undermining the power of the Dáil and especially the Ministry for Defence. Brugha opposed the oath of allegiance required for membership of the IRB and in 1919 his proposition that all Volunteers should swear allegiance to the Irish Republic and the Dáil was adopted. At a top-level IRA meeting in August 1920, Brugha argued against ambushes of Crown forces unless there was first a call to surrender, but this was dismissed as unrealistic by the brigade commanders present. Brugha also had the idea of moving the front line of the war to England, but was opposed by Collins.

On 7 January 1922, Brugha voted against the Anglo-Irish Treaty. During the Treaty Debates he pointed out that Collins only had a middling rank in the Department for Defence which supervised the IRA, Arthur Griffith hailed him as 'the man who had won the war'. He left the Dáil and was replaced as Minister for Defence by Richard Mulcahy. In the months between the Treaty debates and the outbreak of Civil War Brugha attempted to dissuade his fellow anti-treaty army leaders including Rory O'Connor, Liam Mellows and Joe McKelvey from taking up arms against the Free State.

When dissidents occupied the Four Courts he and Oscar Traynor called on them to abandon their position. When they refused, Traynor ordered the occupation of the area around O'Connell Street in the hope of easing the pressure on the Four Courts and of forcing the Free State to negotiate. On 28 June 1922 Brugha was appointed commandant of the forces in O'Connell Street. The outbreak of the Irish Civil War ensued in the first week of July when Free State forces commenced shelling of the anti-treaty positions.

Most of the anti-Treaty fighters under Oscar Traynor escaped from O'Connell Street when the buildings they were holding caught fire, leaving Brugha in command of a small rearguard. On 5 July he ordered his men to surrender, but refused to do so himself. He then approached the Free State troops, brandishing a revolver. He sustained a bullet wound to the leg which 'severed a major artery causing him to bleed to death'. He died on 7 July 1922, 11 days before his 48th birthday. He had been re-elected as an anti-Treaty TD at the 1922 general election but died before the Dáil assembled. He is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.

His wife, Caitlín Brugha, served as a Sinn Féin TD from 1923–27. His son, Ruairí Brugha later became a Fianna Fáil politician and was elected to Dáil Éireann at the 1973 general election. Ruairí married the daughter of Terence MacSwiney, the Republican Lord Mayor of Cork who had died on hunger-strike in 1920.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Members of the First Dáil - Laurence Ginnell

Laurence Ginnell

Laurence Ginnell (1854 – 17 April 1923) was an Irish nationalist politician, lawyer and Member of Parliament (MP) of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland as member of the Irish Parliamentary Party for Westmeath North at the 1906 UK general election, from 1910 he sat as an Independent Nationalist. At the 1918 general election he was elected for Sinn Féin.

In 1917 he campaigned to try and ensure the election of Count Plunkett in the Roscommon North by-election in which he defeated the IPP candidate on an abstentionist platform. Following the victory of Éamon de Valera in East Clare, while standing for Sinn Féin, on 10 July 1917, Ginnell resigned his seat in the House of Commons and joined Sinn Féin. At the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis that year, at which the party was re-constituted as a Republican party with de Valera as President, Ginnell and W. T. Cosgrave were elected Honorary Treasurers. In the 1918 general election, he was elected as a Sinn Féin MP for the Westmeath constituency, comfortably defeating his IPP challenger, and attended the proceedings of the First Dáil. He and James O'Mara were the only Teachtaí Dála (TDs) ever before to sit in a parliament. He was one of the few people to have served in the House of Commons and in the Oireachtas. Ginnell was appointed Director of Propaganda in the Second Ministry of the Irish Republic.

He was appointed the Representative of the Irish Republic in Argentina and South America by de Valera. He carried out his propaganda work here to distribute copies of the Irish Bulletin and to provide the Sinn Féin version of the conflict during the War of Independence. On the 16 August 1921 he returned home to attend the first meeting of the Second Dáil. He travelled back to Argentina some months later to serve as the Representative of the Republic there.

He opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty that was ratified by the Dáil in January 1922, and was elected as an anti-Treaty Sinn Féin TD at the 1922 general election on the eve of the Irish Civil War.
On 9 September 1922, Ginnell was the only anti-Treaty TD to attend the inaugural meeting of the Provisional Parliament or Third Dáil. Before signing the roll Ginnell said: "I want some explanation before I sign. I have been elected in pursuance of a decree by Dáil Éireann, which decree embodies the decree of May 20th, 1922. I have heard nothing read in reference to that decree, nothing but an Act of a foreign Parliament. I have been elected as a member of Dáil Éireann. I have not been elected to attend any such Parliament. Will anyone tell me with authority whether it is …". He was at this point interrupted but resumed saying he would sign the roll and take his seat in the Assembly if the Assembly was Dáil Éireann. He was informed he was not allowed raise any such question until a Ceann Comhairle had been elected. He continued to ask questions regardless to which he got no answer including his question: "Will any member of the Six Counties be allowed to sit in this Dáil?". W. T. Cosgrave moved at this point that he be excluded from the House, Ginnell protested, and he was dragged out by force. His lawyerly sophistry was not appreciated, given that hundreds of people had already been killed in the civil war.

De Valera later appointed him a member of his "Council of State", a 12 member body set up to advise him on the deteriorating situation in the civil war.

He returned to the United States soon after this to serve as the Republic’s envoy in the country. He ordered Robert Briscoe and some of his friends to take possession of the Consular Offices in Nassau Street in New York City, then in the hands of the Free State Government, so as to obtain the list of the subscribers to the bond drive in the United States to help the struggle in the War of Independence. At the time a court case was ongoing to decide on who had the right to the funds, the newly installed Provisional Government or de Valera, as one of the three trustees and those who opposed the Treaty. Laurence Ginnell died in the United States on 17 April 1923 aged 69 years, still campaigning against the Anglo-Irish Treaty.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Political Parties - Ireland - Labour Party (Ireland)

Labour Party (Ireland)

The Labour Party (Irish: Páirtí an Lucht Oibre) is a social-democratic political party in the Republic of Ireland. Founded by James Connolly in 1912 as the political wing of the Irish Trade Union Congress, it claims to be the country's oldest continuous political party and can also (unlike the other main Irish political parties) trace a separate link to the original Sinn Féin party. It holds 20 of the 166 seats in Dáil Éireann and is the third largest political party in the State.

In the 2007 general election, it gained 10.1% of the popular vote. As of 2010 the Labour Party has a membership of 12,000. The Labour Party has served in government for a total of nineteen years, six times in coalition either with Fine Gael alone or with Fine Gael and other smaller parties, and once with Fianna Fáil. Currently in opposition, it is the second most successful party of all the parties in Dáil Éireann in terms of time served in government (one year more than Fine Gael). The current party leader is Eamon Gilmore. He was elected in October 2007 alongside Joan Burton, deputy leader.

In 1914, James Connolly, James Larkin and William X. O'Brien established the Irish Labour Party as the political wing of the Irish Trade Union Congress. This party would represent the workers in the expected Dublin Parliament under the Third Home Rule Act 1914. However, after the defeat of the trade unions in the Dublin Lockout of 1913 the labour movement was weakened, and the emigration of James Larkin in 1914 and the execution of James Connolly following the Easter Rising in 1916 further damaged it.

The Irish Citizen Army (ICA) formed during the 1913 Lockout, was informally the military wing of the Labour Movement. The ICA took part in the 1916 Rising. The ICA was revived during Peadar O'Donnell's Republican Congress but after the 1935 split in the Congress most ICA members joined the Irish Labour Party.

The British Labour Party had previously organised in Ireland, but in 1913 the Labour NEC agreed that the Irish Labour Party would have organising rights over the entirety of Ireland. A group of trade unionists in Belfast objected and the Belfast Labour Party, which later became the nucleus of the Northern Ireland Labour Party, remained outside the new party.

In Larkin's absence, William X. O'Brien became the dominant figure in the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union and wielded considerable influence in the Labour Party. O'Brien also dominated the Irish Trade Union Congress. The Labour party, led by Thomas Johnson from 1917, as successor to such organisations as D. D. Sheehan's (independent Labour MPs) Irish Land and Labour Association (ILLA), declined to contest the 1918 general election, in order to allow the election to take the form of a plebiscite on Ireland's constitutional status (although some candidates did run in Belfast constituencies under the Labour banner against Unionist candidates). It also refrained from contesting the 1921 elections. As a result the party was left out of the Dáil during the vital years of the independence struggle, though Johnson sat in the First Dáil.

The Anglo-Irish Treaty divided the Labour Party. Some members sided with the Irregulars in the Irish Civil War that quickly followed. O'Brien and Johnson encouraged its members to support the Treaty. In the 1922 general election the party won 17 seats. However there were a number of strikes during the first year and a loss in support for the party. In the 1923 general election the Labour Party only won 14 seats. From 1922 until Fianna Fáil TDs took their seats in 1927, the Labour Party was the major opposition party in the Dáil. It attacked the lack of social reform by the Cumann na nGaedhael government.

In 1923, Larkin returned to Ireland. He hoped to take over the leadership role he had left, but O'Brien resisted him. Larkin sided with the more radical elements of the party and in September that year he established the Irish Worker League.

In 1932, the Labour Party supported Éamon de Valera's first Fianna Fáil government, which had proposed a programme of social reform with which the party was in sympathy. In the 1940s it looked for a while as if the Labour Party would replace Fine Gael as the main opposition party. In the 1943 general election the party won 17 seats, its best result since 1927.

The party was socially conservative, compared to similar European parties, and its leaders from 1932 to 1977 (William Norton and Brendan Corish) were members of the Knights of Saint Columbanus.

The Political Parties - Ireland - Sinn Féin

Sinn Féin Logo
Arthur Griffith,

Founder (1905) and Third leader (1908-17)

Sinn Féin (English: "We Ourselves", often mistranslated as "Ourselves Alone" ) is the name of an Irish political party founded in 1905 by Arthur Griffith. Sinn Féin provided a focus for Irish Nationalism in its various forms. Consequently, it encompassed political philosophies from the left and right, Republican and Monarchist, theocrats and atheists. Its break-up during the Irish Civil War in 1922 has had a dramatic effect on politics in Ireland to this day.

The ideas that led to Sinn Féin were first propounded by the United Irishman newspaper and its editor, Arthur Griffith. An article by Griffith in that paper in March 1900 called for the creation of an association to bring together the disparate nationalist groups of the time, and as a result Cumann na nGaedheal was formed at the end of 1900. Griffith first put forward his proposal for the abstention of Irish members of parliament from the Westminster parliament at the 1902 Cumann na nGaedheal convention.

A second organisation, the National Council, was formed in 1903 by Maud Gonne and others, including Griffith, on the occasion of the visit of King Edward VII to Dublin. Its purpose was to lobby Dublin Corporation not to present an address to the king. The motion to present an address was duly defeated, but the National Council remained in existence as a pressure group with the aim of increasing nationalist representation on local councils.

In 1904, Griffith elaborated his policy in a series of articles in the United Irishman, which outlined how the policy of withdrawing from the imperial parliament and passive resistance had been successfully followed in Hungary, leading to the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 and the creation of a dual monarchy, and proposed that Irish MPs should follow the same course. These were published later that year in a booklet entitled The Resurrection of Hungary. Also in 1904 a friend of Griffith's, Mary Ellen Butler, remarked in a conversation that his ideas were "the policy of Sinn Féin, in fact" and Griffith enthusiastically adopted the term. The phrase Sinn Féin ('ourselves' or 'we ourselves') had been in use since the 1880s as an expression of separatist thinking, and was used as a slogan by the Gaelic League in the 1890s.

The first annual convention of the National Council on 28 November 1905 was notable for two things: the decision, by a majority vote (with Griffith dissenting), to open branches and organise on a national basis; and the presentation by Griffith of his 'Hungarian' policy, which was now called the Sinn Féin policy. This meeting is usually taken as the date of the foundation of the Sinn Féin Party. In the meantime, however, a third organisation, the Dungannon Clubs, had been formed in Belfast by Bulmer Hobson, and it also considered itself to be part of 'the Sinn Féin movement'.

By 1907 there was pressure on the three organisations to unite, especially from America, where John Devoy offered funding, but only to a unified party. The pressure increased when C.J. Dolan, the Irish Parliamentary Party MP for Leitrim North, announced his intention to resign his seat and contest it on a Sinn Féin platform. In April 1907 Cumann na nGaedheal and the Dungannon Clubs merged as the 'Sinn Féin League'. Negotiations continued until August when, at the National Council annual convention, the League and the National Council merged on terms favourable to Grifith. The resulting party was named Sinn Féin, and its foundation was backdated to the National Council convention of November 1905.

In the North Leitrim by-election, held in 1908, Sinn Féin secured 27% of the vote. Thereafter, both support and membership fell. At the 1910 Ard Fheis (party conference) the attendance was poor and there was difficulty finding members willing to take seats on the executive. By 1915 it was, in the words of one of Griffith's colleagues, "on the rocks", so insolvent financially that it could not pay the rent on its party headquarters in Harcourt Street in Dublin.

Sinn Féin was not involved in the failed Easter Rising, despite being blamed by the British Government for it. The leaders of the Rising were looking for more than the Sinn Féin proposal of a separation stronger than Home Rule under a dual monarchy. Any group that disagreed with mainstream constitutional politics was branded 'Sinn Féin' by British commentators. The term 'Sinn Féin Rebellion' was also used by the mainstream Irish media, the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) and even by a few of those involved in the Rising.

Later in 1916, surviving members of the Rising led by Éamon de Valera joined and took control of the party. De Valera replaced Griffith as president. The party nearly split between its monarchist and republican wings at its 1917 Ard Fheis (conference) until, in a compromise motion, it proposed the establishment of an independent republic, after which the people could decide whether they wanted a monarchy or republic, subject to the condition that if they chose a monarchy, no member of the British Royal Family could serve as monarch.

Sinn Féin's status was boosted in public opinion by the anger over Maxwell's execution of Rising leaders even though the Roman Catholic hierarchy, the Irish Independent newspaper (the biggest selling daily newspaper in Ireland then and now) and many local authorities actually called for the mass execution of Rising leaders. However, this public sympathy did not give Sinn Féin decisive electoral advantage. It battled with the Irish Parliamentary Party under John Redmond, later John Dillon, with each side winning by-elections. It was only after the World War I German Spring Offensive, when Britain threatened to impose conscription on Ireland to bring its decimated divisions up to strength, that the ensuing Conscription Crisis decisively swung support behind Sinn Féin.

Sinn Féin won 73 of Ireland's 105 seats in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland parliament at the general election in December 1918, many uncontested. There were four reasons for this. Firstly, despite being the largest party in Ireland for forty years, the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) had not fought a general election since 1910.

Secondly, in many parts of Ireland the IPP's organisation had decayed and was no longer capable of mounting an electoral challenge. Thirdly, other seats were uncontested because of mass support, with other parties deciding that there was no point in challenging Sinn Féin given it was certain to win. Fourthly, contemporary documents also suggest a degree of intimidation of opponents. (Piaras Béaslaí recorded one example in a by-election in Longford in 1917 where a Sinn Féin activist put a gun against the head of a Returning Officer and forced him to announce the election of the Sinn Féin candidate even though the IPP candidate had more votes. Potential candidates who were thought of as serious challengers to Sinn Féin candidates were warned against seeking election in some Ulster constituencies and in Munster, though in Cork all the All-for-Ireland Party MPs stood down in favour of Sinn Féin candidates.)

In Ulster, Unionists won twenty-two (22) seats, Sinn Féin twenty-six (26) and the Irish Parliamentary Party won six (6) (where they were not opposeed by Sinn Féin). In the thirty-two counties of Ireland, twenty-four (24) returned only Sinn Féin candidates. In the nine counties of Ulster, the Unionists polled a majority in only four.

Because twenty-five seats were uncontested under dubious circumstances, it has been difficult to determine what the actual support for the party was in the country. Various accounts range from 45% to 80%. Academic analysts at the Northern Ireland demographic institute (ARK) estimate a figure of 53%.

Another estimate suggests Sinn Féin had the support of approximately 65% of the electorate (unionists accounting for approximately 20-25% and other nationalists for the remainder). Lastly, emigration was difficult during the war, which meant that tens of thousands of young people were in Ireland who would not have been there under normal circumstances.

On 21 January 1919, twenty-seven Sinn Féin MPs assembled in Dublin's Mansion House and proclaimed themselves the parliament of Ireland, the First Dáil Éireann. They elected an Aireacht (ministry) headed by a Príomh Aire (prime minister). Though the state was declared to be a republic, no provision was made for a head of state. This was rectified in August 1921 when the Príomh Aire (also known as President of Dáil Éireann) was upgraded to President of the Republic, a full head of state.

In the 1920 city council elections, Sinn Féin gained control of ten of the twelve city councils in Ireland. Only Belfast and Derry remained under Unionist and IPP (respectively) control. In the local elections of the same year, Sinn Féin won control of all the county councils except Antrim, Down, Londonderry and Armagh.

Following the conclusion of the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations between representatives of the British Government and de Valera's republican government in December 1921 and the narrow approval of the Treaty by Dáil Éireann, a state called the Irish Free State was established. Northern Ireland (a six county region set up under the British Government of Ireland Act 1920) opted out, as the Treaty allowed.

The reasons for the split were various, though partition was not one of them – the IRA did not split in the new Northern Ireland and pro- and anti-treaty republicans there looked to IRA Chief of Staff (and pro-treaty) Michael Collins for leadership (and weapons). The principal reason for the split is usually described as the question of the Oath of Allegiance to the Irish Free State, which members of the new Dáil would be required to take. The Treaty explicitly provided that the Free State would be a Dominion of the British Empire, the Oath also included a statement of fidelity to the King: many republicans found that unacceptable. The pro-treaty forces argued that the treaty gave "freedom to achieve freedom".

In the elections of June 1922 in the southern twenty-six counties, de Valera and the anti-treaty Sinn Féin secured 35% of the popular vote. The anti-treaty element of the IRA had formed another Executive that did not consider itself subordinate to the new parliament, while the pro-Treaty element formed the nucleus of the new National Army with the existing IRA Executive becoming its GHQ.

A short, bitter Irish Civil War (June 1922 – April 1923) erupted between the supporters of the Treaty and its opponents. De Valera resigned as President of the Republic and sided with the anti-treatyites. The victorious pro-treaty parties, who amounted to a majority of Sinn Féin TDs and a majority of the voting electorate, became the government and Dáil of the Irish Free State. The pro-treaty Sinn Féin TDs changed the name of the party to Cumann na nGaedhael and were led by Michael Collins.

After the Civil War, the anti-Treaty IRA stood down ("dumped arms"). In the 1923 general election, Cumann na nGaedhael won 41% of the popular vote and 63 seats; the Anti-Treaty faction (standing as "Republican" and led by Éamonn de Valera) secured 29% of the vote and 44 seats – but applied their abstention policy to the new Dáil Éireann.

The Political Parties - Ireland - Fine Gael

Fine Gael Logo

Law and order party
Although Ireland's political spectrum was traditionally divided along Civil War lines, rather than the traditional European left-right spectrum, Fine Gael is described generally as a Christian-democratic party, with a focus on law and order, enterprise and reward, and fiscal rectitude. As the descendent of the pro-Treaty factions in the Irish Civil War, Fine Gael has a strong affinity with Michael Collins and his legacy. He remains a symbol for the party, and the anniversary of his death is commemorated each year in August.

Economically liberal Fine Gael has, since its inception, portrayed itself as a party of fiscal rectitude and minimal government interference in economics, advocating pro-enterprise policies. Newly elected politicians for the party in the Dáil have strongly advocated liberal economic policies. Lucinda Creighton and Leo Varadkar in particular have been seen as strong advocates of a more neo-liberal approach to Ireland's economics woes and Ireland's unemployment problems. Varadkar in particular has been a strong proponent of small, indigenous business, advocating that smaller firms should benefit from the government's recapitalisation program. Its former finance spokesman Richard Bruton's proposals have been seen as approaching problems from a pro-enterprise point of view. Its fairer budget website suggests that its solutions are "tough but fair".

Other solutions conform generally to conservative governments' policies throughout Europe, focusing on cutting numbers in the public sector, while maintaining investment in infrastructure.

Under Kenny the party has also strongly opposed the perceived "rip-off" society that has developed in Ireland, advocating reform of stealth taxes and stamp duty.

Economic policies
Fine Gael's Simon Coveney launched what the party termed a radical re-organisation of the Irish Semi-State Company sector. Styled the New Economy and Recovery Authority (or NewERA), Coveney said that it is an economic stimulus plan that will "reshape the Irish economy for the challenges of the 21st Century". Requiring an €18.2 billion investment in Energy, Communications and Water infrastructure over a four year period, it was promoted as a way to enhance energy security and digital reputation of Ireland. A very broad ranging document, it proposes the combined management of a portfolio of semi-state assets, and the sale of all other, non-essential services. The release of equity through the sale of the various state resources, including electricity generation services belonging to the ESB, Bord na Móna and Bord Gáis, in combination with use of money in the National Pensions Reserve Fund, is the means by which Fine Gael is proposing to fund its national stimulus package.

The plan is a seen at being the basis of a Fine Gael program for government. Seen as being the longer term contribution to Fine Gael's economic plan, it has been publicised in combination with a more short term policy proposal from FG TD, Dr. Leo Varadkar. This document, termed "Hope for a Lost Generation", promises to bring 30,000 young Irish people off the Live Register in a year by combining a National Internship Program, a Second Chance Education Scheme, an Apprenticeship Guarantee and Community Work Program, as well as instituting a German style, Workshare program.

Commentary on the FG's economic proposals has generally been positive from some economic commentators including Eddie Hobbs and David McWilliams who have praised the proposals stating that they have considerable potential. Eamon Gilmore's Labour Party has launched policies which are seen to be broadly consistent with the FG platform.

Constitutional reform policies
Fine Gael is seen as being a constitutional party, with members and public representatives always showing considerable deference to the institutional organs of the Irish state. The party leadership has been eager to be seen to engage in an ongoing constitutional debate in Ireland on the topic of political reform. The debate which has been monitored by the Irish Times in its Renewing the Republic opinion pieces, has largely centred on the make up of the Oireachtas, the Irish parliament. FG's Phil Hogan TD, has published the party's answer to the political and constitutional reform question. In a policy document entitled New Politics, deputy Hogan has suggested creating a country with "a smaller, more dynamic and more responsive political system," reducing the size of the Dáil by 20, changing the way the Dáil works, and in a controversial move, abolishing the Irish senate, Seanad Éireann.

Aiming to carry out the parties proposals through a series of constitutional referendums, the proposals were echoed by Labour leader Eamon Gilmore, when he proposed his own constitutional crusade at his 2010 party conference, shortly after.

Social policies
Fine Gael has been traditionally conservative in social matters for most of the twentieth century. This was due to the conservative Christian ethos of Irish society during this time. Possibly because of the Celtic tiger, a decline in Sunday church attendance and the rise of international media and social influences, significant opinion polls suggest that support has grown in Ireland for liberalisation. Fine Gael has adapted to these new social influences and while in government in 1996, it legalised divorce in Ireland after a referendum held on the 24 November in 1995.

Under Enda Kenny, the party has pledged its support for the issue of civil unions in Ireland. Though not going as far as to support same sex marriage, the party ran advertisements in GCN (Gay Community News) advertising its commitments to same-sex couples. Support in the republic for same-sex marriage is estimated at roughly 63%, with 37% against. Polls show that numbers supporting same-sex civil unions are much higher, at 84%.

Health policies
The Irish health system, being administered centrally by the Health Service Executive, is seen to be poor by comparison to other countries in Europe, ranking outside expected levels at 25th according to the Euro Health Consumer Index 2006. Fine Gael has become the first party in Ireland to break with the system of private health insurance, public medical cards and what it calls the two tiers of the health system and has launched a campaign to see the system reformed. Speaking in favour of the campaign, Fine Gael health spokesman James Reilly stated "Over the last 10 years the health service has become a shambles. We regularly have over 350 people on trolleys in A&E, waiting lists that go on for months, outpatient waiting lists that go on for years and cancelled operations across the country..."

Fine Gael launched its FairCare campaign and website in April 2009, which states that the health service would be reformed away from a costly ineffective endeavour, into a publicly regulated system where universal health insurance would replace the existing provisions.

This strategy was criticised by Fianna Fáil Minister for Children, Barry Andrews. The spokesperson for family law and children, Alan Shatter TD, robustly defended its proposals as the only means of reducing public expenditure, and providing a service in Ireland more akin to the German, Dutch and Canadian health systems.

International identity
The party is a member of the Centrist Democrat International and the European Peoples Party, while it sits with the European People's Party group in the European Parliament. Young Fine Gael is a member of the Youth of the European People's Party (YEPP).

Pro-European Fine Gael is among the most pro-European integration parties in the Republic of Ireland, having supported the European Constitution, the Lisbon Treaty, and advocating participation in European common defence. Under Enda Kenny, the party has questioned Irish neutrality, with Kenny claiming that "the truth is, Ireland is not neutral. We are merely unaligned."

The Political Parties - Ireland - Fianna Fáil


Fianna Fáil – The Republican Party (Irish: Fianna Fáil – An Páirtí Poblachtánach), more commonly known as Fianna Fáil (Irish pronunciation: [ˌfʲiənə ˈfɔːlʲ]) is a political party in the Republic of Ireland. It is the largest party in both houses of the Oireachtas, Ireland's bicameral parliament, and the leading party in a coalition government with the Green Party, which also has the support of five Independent TDs.

Fianna Fáil's name is traditionally translated into English as Soldiers of Destiny, although a more accurate rendition would be Warriors of Fál ("Fál" being a legendary name for Ireland).
Historically Fianna Fáil has been seen as to the left of Fine Gael and to the right of Labour. However Fianna Fáil has never been categorized as being left wing or right wing and has led governments including parties of the left, Labour Party (Ireland) and Green Party and parties of the right Progressive Democrats. Fianna Fáil is typically seen as a Big tent Party with support spread evenly across all social classes and has been in power for 53 years of its 84 year history, having ruled almost continuously since 1987 with the exception of an 18 month period between 1994-1997, It is the second most successful political party in the democratic world after the Swedish Social Democratic Party with all it's leaders having served as Prime Minister a feat not matched by any other Party. It currently boasts a membership of some 75,000 members, the largest membership of an Irish political party by far.

Fianna Fáil joined the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party on 16 April 2009, and has sat in its associated Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group in the European Parliament since the 2009 European elections

Although the posts of leader and party president of Fianna Fáil are separate, with the former elected by the Parliamentary Party and the latter elected by the Ardfheis (thus allowing for the posts to be held by different people, in theory), in practice they have always been held by the one person. However, as the Ardfheis may have already been held in any given year by the time a new leader is elected, the selection of the new party president might not take place until the next year.
The following are the terms of office for the leader:
  • Éamon de Valera (1926–1959)
  • Seán Lemass (1959–1966)
  • Jack Lynch (1966–1979)
  • Charles Haughey (1979–1992)
  • Albert Reynolds (1992–1994)
  • Bertie Ahern (1994–2008)
  • Brian Cowen (2008–present)
Party Aims and Objectives

1. To secure in peace and agreement the unity of Ireland and its people.
2. To develop a distinctive national life in accordance with the diverse traditions and ideals of the Irish people as part of a broader European culture, and to restore and promote the Irish language as a living language of the people.
3. To guarantee religious and civil liberty, and equal rights, equal treatment and equal opportunities for all the people of Ireland.
4. To develop the resources and wealth of Ireland to their full potential, while making them subservient to the needs and welfare of all the people of Ireland, so as to provide the maximum sustainable employment, based on fostering a spirit of enterprise and self-reliance and on social partnership.
5. To protect the natural environment and heritage of Ireland and to ensure a balance between town and country and between the regions, and to maintain as many families as practicable on the land.
6. To promote the family, and a wider sense of social responsibility, and to uphold the rule of law in the interest of the welfare and safety of the public.
7. To maintain the status of Ireland as a sovereign State, as a full member of the European Union and the United Nations, contributing to peace, disarmament and development on the basis of Ireland's independent foreign policy tradition.
8. To reform the laws and institutions of State, to make them efficient, humane, caring and responsive to the needs of the citizen.

On 17 September 2007 Fianna Fáil announced that the party would, for the first time, organise in Northern Ireland.

Foreign Minister, Dermot Ahern, is to chair a committee on the matter: "In the period ahead Dermot Ahern will lead efforts to develop that strategy for carrying through this policy, examining timescales and structures. We will act gradually and strategically. We are under no illusions. It will not be easy. It will challenge us all. But I am confident we will succeed,"The party embarked on its first ever recruitment drive north of the border on the 25th and 26th of September in northern universities, and established two 'Political Societies', the William Drennan Cumann in Queens University, Belfast, and the Watty Graham Cumann in UU Magee, Derry.

Bertie Ahern announced on 7 December 2007 that Fianna Fáil had been registered in Northern Ireland by the UK Electoral Commission. There has been speculation about an eventual merger with the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), formerly the main Irish nationalist party in the Northern ireland, but now smaller than Sinn Féin. This has been met with a mixed reaction with former Deputy Leader of the SDLP, Seamus Mallon, stating he would be opposed to any such merger. On 23 February 2008, it was announced that a former UUP councillor, Colonel Harvey Bicker, had joined FF.

The 2009 Ardfheis announced the establishment of Fianna Fáil Fora across Northern Ireland, initially on a County-by-County basis. The first formally established Forum is the Armagh Forum, subsequently fora have been established in Counties Down and Fermanagh, further organisation continues. This Ardfheis also elected Mark Hughes, a member from Armagh, to the Party's Ard Chomhairle (National Executive).

In November 2009, at the National Youth Conference in Bundoran, Ógra Fianna Fáil decided to add the position of Northern Representative to the committee to reflect the organisations 32 county status.

On the 22nd July 2010 Taoiseach Brian Cowen opened the first Fianna Fail office in the town of Crossmaglen. The event was visited by several high profile TD's.

Seanad Éireann

Seanad Eireann Chamber - Leinster House - Dublin

Seanad Éireann (Irish pronunciation: [ˈʃan̪ˠəd̪ˠ ˈeːɾʲən̪ˠ]; English: Senate of Ireland) is the upper house of the Oireachtas (Irish parliament), which also comprises the President of Ireland and Dáil Éireann (the lower house). It is also commonly known as the Seanad or Senate. Unlike Dáil Éireann, it is not directly elected but consists of a mixture of members chosen by various methods. Its powers are much weaker than those of the Dáil and it can only delay laws with which it disagrees, rather than veto them outright. It has been located, since its establishment, in Leinster House.
Seanad Éireann consists of sixty senators:
  • Eleven appointed by the Taoiseach (prime minister), see Senator nominated by the Taoiseach.
  • Six elected by the graduates of certain Irish universities:
    Three by graduates of the University of Dublin.
    Three by graduates of the National University of Ireland.
  • 43 elected from five special panels of nominees (known as Vocational Panels) by an electorate consisting of TDs (member of Dáil Éireann), senators and local councillors. Nomination is restrictive for the panel seats with only Oireachtas members and designated 'nominating bodies' entitled to nominate. Each of the five panels consists, in theory, of individuals possessing special knowledge of, or experience in, one of five specific fields. In practice the nominees are party members, often, though not always, failed or aspiring Dáil candidates:
  • Administrative Panel: Public administration and social services (including the voluntary sector).
  • Agricultural Panel: Agriculture and the fisheries.
  • Cultural and Educational Panel: Education, the arts, the Irish language and Irish culture and literature.
  • Industrial and Commercial Panel: Industry and commerce (including engineering and architecture).
  • Labour Panel: Labour (organised or otherwise).

Under the Constitution of Ireland the general election for the Seanad must occur not later than 90 days after the dissolution of Dáil Éireann. The election occurs under the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote (however in the panel constituencies each vote counts as 1000 meaning fractions of votes can be transferred). Membership is open to all Irish citizens over 21 and residing within Ireland, but a senator cannot also be a member of Dáil Éireann. However, as stated above, nomination to vocational panel seats is restricted; while nomination in the University constituencies requires signatures of 10 graduates.

In the case of a vacancy, by death, resignation or election to the European Parliament, a Seanad by-election take place. Seanad by-elections involve Oireachtas members only, giving the incumbent government an automatic majority.

First Dáil

Members of the First Dáil:
First row, left to right: Laurence Ginnell, Michael Collins, Cathal Brugha, Arthur Griffith, Éamon de Valera, Count Plunkett, Eoin MacNeill, W. T. Cosgrave, E. Blythe.
Second Row: P.J. Maloney. T. McSwiney, R. Mulcahy, J. O'Doherty, J. Dolan, J. McGuinness, P. O'Keefe, M. Staines, J. McGrath, B. Cusack, L. de Roiste, M.P. Colivert, Fr. M. Flanagan,
Third Row: J.P. Ward, A. McCabe, D. Fitzgerald, J. Sweeney, R.J. Hayes, C. Collins, P. O'Maille, J. O'Mara, B. O'Higgins, J.A. Burke, Kevin O'Higgins
Fourth Row: J. McDonagh, J. McEntee
Fifth Row: P. Beasley, R.C. Barton, P. Galligan
Sixth Row: P. Shanahan, S. Etchingham

The First Dáil (Irish: An Chéad Dáil) was Dáil Éireann as it convened from 1919–1921. In 1919 candidates who had been elected in the Westminster elections of 1918 refused to recognise the Parliament of the United Kingdom and instead assembled as a unicameral, revolutionary parliament called "Dáil Éireann". The establishment of the First Dáil occurred on the same day as the outbreak of the Irish War of Independence. After elections in 1921, the First Dáil was succeeded by the Second Dáil of 1921–1922.

In 1918, Ireland was a part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and was represented in the British House of Commons by 105 MPs. From 1882–1918 most Irish MPs were members of the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) who strove in several Home Rule Bills to achieve self-government for Ireland within the United Kingdom through the constitutional movement for reform. This approach put the Third Home Rule Act 1914 on the statute book but the implementation of this legislation was temporarily postponed with the outbreak of the First World War. In the meantime the more radical Sinn Féin party grew in strength.

Sinn Féin's founder, Arthur Griffith, believed that nationalists should emulate the means by which Hungarian nationalists had achieved partial independence from Austria. In 1867, led by Ferenc Deák, Hungarian representatives had boycotted the Imperial parliament in Vienna and unilaterally established their own legislature in Budapest. The Austrian government had eventually become reconciled to this new state of affairs which became known as an Ausgleich or "compromise". Members of Sinn Féin also, however, supported achieving separation from Britain by means of an armed uprising if necessary.

Between the Easter Rising of 1916 and the 1918 general election, Sinn Féin's popularity was increased dramatically by the execution of most of the leaders of the 1916 rebels, the party's reorganisation in 1917 and by its opposition to military conscription in Ireland (see Conscription Crisis of 1918). The party was also aided by the 1918 Representation of the People Act which increased the Irish electorate from around 700,000 to about two million. Voting in the 1918 general election occurred in most constituencies on 14 December and elections were held almost entirely under the traditional 'first-past-the-post' system.

Sinn Féin won 73 out of the 105 Irish seats in the Westminster parliament, their votes 476,087 (or 46.9%) for 48 seats, plus 25 uncontested without a ballot. Unionists (including Ulster Unionist Labour Association) previously 19 won 26 seats on 305,206 (30.2%) votes, all but three of which were in the six counties that today form Northern Ireland, and the IPP won merely six (down from 84 in 1910), all but one in Ulster, on 220,837 (21.7%) votes cast.

The Labour Party had decided not to participate in the election, allowing the electorate to decide on the issue of Home Rule versus a Republic by having a clear two way choice between the two nationalist parties.The Irish Party won a smaller share of seats than votes, as the election was run under the British "First past the post" system, and not by the proportional representation method that is usual in Ireland today. Because of the large number of Sinn Féin candidates elected unopposed, and despite their opponents polling nearly 52% of the votes, the elections were seen as a landslide victory for the party.

Once elected the Sinn Féin MPs chose to follow through with their Manifesto's plan of abstention from the Westminster parliament and instead assembled as a revolutionary parliament they called "Dáil Éireann": the Irish for "Assembly of Ireland". Unionists and members of the IPP refused to recognise the Dáil, and three Sinn Féin candidates had been elected in two different constituencies, so the First Dáil consisted of a total of seventy Deputies or "TDs". Forty-three of these were absent from the inaugural meeting as they were imprisoned or on the run from the British. Six Sinn Féin MPs were elected in the counties that are now Northern Ireland. Of these two also held seats in other parts of the country.

The first meeting of Dáil Éireann occurred on 21 January 1919 in the Round Room of the Mansion House: the residence of the Lord Mayor in Dublin. Being the first and highly symbolic meeting, the proceedings of the Dáil were conducted for the only time entirely in the Irish language, except for previously drafted declarations that were repeated in other languages as well. The Dáil elected Cathal Brugha as its Ceann Comhairle (chairman or speaker). A number of short documents were then adopted. These were the:
  • Dáil Constitution - a brief, provisional constitution.
  • Declaration of Independence
  • Message to the Free Nations of the World
  • Democratic Programme - a tract espousing certain principles of socialism
The Declaration of Independence asserted that the Dáil was the parliament of a sovereign state called the "Irish Republic", and so the Dáil established a cabinet called the Ministry or "Aireacht", and an elected prime minister known both as the "Príomh Aire" and the "President of Dáil Éireann". The first, temporary president was Cathal Brugha. He was succeeded, in April, by Éamon de Valera.

The membership of the Dáil was drawn from the Irish MPs elected to sit at the Westminster parliament, 105 in total, of which 27 were listed as being present (i láthair) for the first meeting. Of the remainder 35 were described as being "imprisoned by the foreign enemy" (fé ghlas ag Gallaibh) and 4 as being "deported by the foreign enemy" (ar díbirt ag Gallaibh). Two names are left unstated as to their attendance or otherwise. The remaining 37 members who were invited but not present were unionists mainly from the northern six counties that would later form Northern Ireland. These included all MPs elected to sit for Belfast city, Counties Londonderry, Down, Antrim, Armagh, and Fermanagh, and two out of three MPs for County Tyrone. For the portion of the country that would later become the Irish Free State, MPs did not sit for Waterford city or the Dublin University constituency (although members did attend for the National University of Ireland constituency). In other places, attendance was not universal:
  • Dublin city (1 out of 9 absent)
  • Cork city (1/2)
  • County Cork (2/7)
  • County Kilkenny (1/2)
  • County Roscommon (1/2)
  • County Donegal (1/4)
On precisely the same day as the Dáil's first meeting, two members of the Royal Irish Constabulary were ambushed and killed at Soloheadbeg, in Tipperary, by members of the Irish Volunteers. This incident had not been ordered by the Dáil but the course of events soon drove the Dáil to recognise the Volunteers as the army of the Irish Republic and the ambush as an act of war against Great Britain. The Volunteers therefore changed their name, in August, to the Irish Republican Army, and swore allegiance in August 1920 to both the Republic and the Dáil. The dual nature of this oath did not become apparent until much later. The Soloheadbeg incident is thus regarded as the opening act of the Irish War of Independence, though the Dáil did not formally declare war on Britain until 1921. From its first meeting the Dáil also set about attempting to secure de facto authority for the Irish Republic throughout the country. This included the establishment of a parallel judicial system known as the Dáil Courts.

In September 1919, the Dáil was declared illegal by the British authorities and thereafter met only intermittently and at various locations. The First Dáil held its last meeting on 10 May 1921. After elections on 24 May the Dáil was succeeded by the Second Dáil which sat for the first time on 16 August.

The First Dáil and the general election of 1918 have come to occupy a central place in Irish republican mythology. The 1918 general election was the last occasion on which the entire island of Ireland voted in a single election held on a single day until elections to the European Parliament over sixty years later. The landslide victory for Sinn Féin was seen as an overwhelming endorsement of the principle of a united independent Ireland. Until recently republican paramilitary groups, such the Provisional IRA, often claimed that their campaigns derived legitimacy from this 1918 mandate, and some still do.

The list is given in alphabetical order by constituency of the MPs who agreed to be members of the First Dáil.

Members of the 1st Dáil

Constituency Name Party
Carlow James Lennon Sinn Féin
Cavan East Arthur Griffith Sinn Féin
Cavan West Peter Galligan Sinn Féin
Clare East Éamon de Valera Sinn Féin
Clare West Brian O'Higgins Sinn Féin
Cork City Liam de Róiste Sinn Féin
Cork City †James J. Walsh Sinn Féin
Cork East David Kent Sinn Féin
Cork Mid Terence MacSwiney Sinn Féin
Cork North Patrick O'Keeffe Sinn Féin
Cork North East Thomas Hunter Sinn Féin
Cork South Michael Collins Sinn Féin
Cork South East Diarmuid Lynch Sinn Féin
Cork West †Seán Hayes Sinn Féin
Donegal North †Joseph O'Doherty Sinn Féin
Donegal South †Peter Ward Sinn Féin
Donegal West †Joseph Sweeney Sinn Féin
Dublin Clontarf †Richard Mulcahy Sinn Féin
Dublin College Green †Seán T. O'Kelly Sinn Féin
Dublin Harbour †Philip Shanahan Sinn Féin
Dublin North Frank Lawless Sinn Féin
Dublin Pembroke Desmond FitzGerald Sinn Féin
Dublin South †George Gavan Duffy Sinn Féin
Dublin St James's Joseph McGrath Sinn Féin
Dublin St Michan's †Michael Staines Sinn Féin
Dublin St Patrick's Constance Markiewicz Sinn Féin
Dublin St Stephen's Green †Thomas Kelly Sinn Féin
Fermanagh South Seán O'Mahony Sinn Féin
Galway Connemara †Pádraic Ó Máille Sinn Féin
Galway East Liam Mellows Sinn Féin
Galway North Bryan Cusack Sinn Féin
Galway South Frank Fahy Sinn Féin
Kerry East †Piaras Béaslaí Sinn Féin
Kerry North James Crowley Sinn Féin
Kerry South Fionán Lynch Sinn Féin
Kerry West Austin Stack Sinn Féin
Kildare North †Domhnall Ua Buachalla Sinn Féin
Kildare South Art O'Connor Sinn Féin
Kilkenny North W. T. Cosgrave Sinn Féin
Kilkenny South James O'Mara Sinn Féin
King's County Patrick McCartan Sinn Féin
Leitrim James Dolan Sinn Féin
Limerick City Michael Colivet Sinn Féin
Limerick East Richard Hayes Sinn Féin
Limerick West †Con Collins Sinn Féin
Londonderry City †Eoin MacNeill Sinn Féin
Longford Joseph McGuinness Sinn Féin
Louth †John J. O'Kelly Sinn Féin
Mayo East Éamon de Valera Sinn Féin
Mayo North †John Crowley Sinn Féin
Mayo South William Sears Sinn Féin
Mayo West Joseph MacBride Sinn Féin
Meath North Liam Mellows Sinn Féin
Meath South †Eamonn Duggan Sinn Féin
Monaghan North Ernest Blythe Sinn Féin
Monaghan South Seán MacEntee Sinn Féin
National University of Ireland †Eoin MacNeill Sinn Féin
Queen's County †Kevin O'Higgins Sinn Féin
Roscommon North †Count Plunkett Sinn Féin
Roscommon South Harry Boland Sinn Féin
Sligo North J. J. Clancy Sinn Féin
Sligo South Alexander McCabe Sinn Féin
Tipperary East Pierce McCan Sinn Féin
Tipperary Mid †Séamus Burke Sinn Féin
Tipperary North Joseph MacDonagh Sinn Féin
Tipperary South †P. J. Moloney Sinn Féin
Tyrone North West Arthur Griffith Sinn Féin
Waterford County †Cathal Brugha Sinn Féin
Westmeath Laurence Ginnell Sinn Féin
Wexford North †Roger Sweetman Sinn Féin
Wexford South James Ryan Sinn Féin
Wicklow East Seán Etchingham Sinn Féin
Wicklow West †Robert Barton Sinn Féin

†Denotes members who attended the opening session of the First Dáil on 21 January 1919.

The list is given in alphabetical order by constituency of the MPs who refused to be members of the First Dáil.

Constituency Name Party
Antrim East Robert McCalmont Irish Unionist
Antrim Mid Hugh O'Neill Irish Unionist
Antrim North Peter Kerr-Smiley Irish Unionist
Antrim South Charles Curtis Craig Irish Unionist
Armagh Mid James Rolston Lonsdale Irish Unionist
Armagh North William Allen Irish Unionist
Armagh South Patrick Donnelly Irish Parliamentary
Belfast Cromac William A. Lindsay Irish Unionist
Belfast Duncairn Edward Carson Irish Unionist
Belfast Falls Joseph Devlin Irish Parliamentary
Belfast Ormeau Thomas Moles Irish Unionist
Belfast Pottinger Herbert Dixon Irish Unionist
Belfast St Anne's Thomas Henry Burn Labour Unionist
Belfast Shankill Samuel McGuffin Labour Unionist
Belfast Victoria Thompson Donald Labour Unionist
Belfast Woodvale Robert Lynn Irish Unionist
Donegal East Edward Kelly Irish Parliamentary
Down East David Reid Irish Unionist
Down Mid James Craig Irish Unionist
Down North Thomas W. Brown Irish Unionist
Down South Jeremiah McVeagh Irish Parliamentary
Down West Daniel M. Wilson Irish Unionist
Dublin Rathmines Maurice Dockrell Irish Unionist
Dublin University Arthur Warren Samuels Irish Unionist
Dublin University Robert Henry Woods Independent Unionist
Fermanagh North Edward Archdale Irish Unionist
Londonderry North Hugh Anderson Irish Unionist
Londonderry South Denis Henry Irish Unionist
Queen's University of Belfast William Whitla Irish Unionist
Tyrone North East Thomas Harbison Irish Parliamentary
Tyrone South William Coote Irish Unionist
Waterford City William Redmond Irish Parliamentary

Today, the name Dáil Éireann is used for the lower house of the modern Oireachtas (parliament) of the Republic of Ireland. Many commentators, including, recently, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, have suggested that despite the ambitious aspirations of the First Dáil, Irish independence only really began in December 1922 with the foundation of the Irish Free State, in terms of international law and diplomatic recognition.

Nonetheless, successive Dála (plural for Dáil) continue to be numbered from the "First Dáil" convened in 1919. The current Dáil, elected in 2007, is accordingly the "30th Dáil". Seán MacEntee, who died on 10 January 1984 at the age of 94, was the last surviving member of the First Dáil.

Oireachtas


The Oireachtas (Irish pronunciation: [ɛrʲaxt̪ˠasˠ]), sometimes referred to as Oireachtas Éireann, is the "national parliament" or legislature of Ireland. The Oireachtas consists of:
  • The President of Ireland
  • The two Houses of the Oireachtas (Irish: Tithe an Oireachtais):
    Dáil Éireann (Lower house)
    Seanad Éireann (Upper house)

The Houses of the Oireachtas sit in Leinster House in Dublin, an eighteenth century ducal palace. The directly-elected Dáil is by far the most powerful branch of the Oireachtas.

Dáil Éireann, the lower house, is directly elected under universal suffrage of all Irish citizens who are resident and at least eighteen years of age. An election is held at least once in every five years as required by law. However the house can usually be dissolved at any time at the request of the Taoiseach (head of government). Dáil elections occur under the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote.

The Seanad is not directly elected but consists of a mixture of members selected in a number of ways. 43 senators are elected by councillors and parliamentarians, 11 are appointed by the Taoiseach, and six are elected by two university constituencies.

The President of Ireland is directly elected once in every seven years, for a maximum of two terms. However if, as has occurred on a number of occasions, a consensus among the larger political parties can result in only a single candidate being nominated, then no actual ballot occurs.

To become law a bill must first be approved by both the Dáil and in most circumstances the Seanad (although the Dáil can override a Seanad refusal to pass a Bill), and then signed into law by the President. Bills to amend the Constitution must also be approved by the People prior to being presented to the President. In most circumstances, the President is in effect obliged to sign all laws approved by the Houses of the Oireachtas, although he or she has the power to refer most bills to the Supreme Court for a ruling on constitutionality. The powers of the Seanad are in effect limited to delay rather than veto. It is the Dáil, therefore, that is the supreme tier of the Irish legislature. The general enacting formula for Acts of the Oireachtas is: "Be it enacted by the Oireachtas as follows:-", for an act with a preamble this enacting formula is, instead, "Be it therefore enacted by the Oireachtas as follows:—".

The Oireachtas has exclusive power to:

  • Legislate, including a power vested in the Dáil of approving the financial resolutions relevant to the budget.
  • Create subordinate legislatures.
  • Propose changes to the constitution (must be initiated in the Dáil), which must then be submitted to a referendum.
  • Raise military or armed forces.
  • Allow international agreements to become part of the domestic law of the state.
  • Pass certain laws having extraterritorial effect (in accordance with the similar practices of other states).
  • Enact, when it considers a state of emergency to exist, almost any law it deems necessary.

Limitations:

  • Laws are invalid if, and to the extent that, they contradict the constitution.
  • In the event of a conflict, EU law also takes precedence over acts of the Oireachtas, as per the Treaty of Lisbon.
  • It may not retrospectively criminalise acts that were not illegal at the time they were committed.
  • It may not enact any law providing for the imposition of the death penalty, even during a state of emergency.
  • It can only legislate for the Republic of Ireland and not for Northern Ireland.

The word oireachtas comes from the Irish language name MacOireachtaigh (Geraghty), believed to have been advisors to ancient kings and has been the title of two parliaments in Irish history: the current Oireachtas of the Republic of Ireland, since 1937, and, immediately before that, the Oireachtas of the Irish Free State of 1922–1937.

The earliest parliament in Ireland was the Parliament of Ireland, which was founded in the thirteenth century as the supreme legislative body of the lordship of Ireland and was in existence until 1801. This parliament governed the English-dominated part of Ireland, which at first was limited to Dublin and surrounding cities, but later grew to include the entire island. But the Irish Parliament was, from the passage of Poyning's law in 1494 until its repeal in 1782, subordinate to the English, and later British, Parliament. This Parliament consisted of the King of Ireland,who was the same person as the King of England, a House of the Lords and a House of Commons. In 1800 the Irish Parliament abolished itself when, after widespread bribery of members, it adopted the Act of Union, which came into effect from 1 January 1801.

The next legislature to exist in Ireland only came into being in 1919. This was an extra-legal, unicameral parliament established by Irish republicans, known simply as Dáil Éireann. This revolutionary Dáil was notionally a legislature for the whole island of Ireland. In 1920, in parallel to the extra-legal Dáil, the British government created a home rule legislature called the Parliament of Southern Ireland. However this parliament was boycotted by most Irish politicians. It was made up of the King, the House of Commons of Southern Ireland and the Senate of Southern Ireland. The Parliament of Southern Ireland was formally abolished in 1922, with the establishment of the Oireachtas under the Constitution of the Irish Free State.

The Oireachtas of the Irish Free State consisted officially of the King and two houses, named, as their successors would be, Dáil Éireann (described, in this case, as a 'Chamber of Deputies') and Seanad Éireann. However the Free State Senate was abolished in 1935. The modern Oireachtas came into being in 1937, with the adoption by referendum of the Constitution of Ireland.