1918 General Election and Declaration of Irish Republic
The end of the First World War pathed the way for the first general election to take place in the United Kingdom since 1910. In the 1910 election, the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) won 73 seats out of 105 Irish seats available in Westminster.
Following the general election in 1918, the IPP held just six seats compared to the Sinn Féin Party who won 73 (or 70%) of the 105 seats. Following the 1918 election, Sinn Féin could claim an overwhelming democratic mandate for independence.
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The original Sinn Féin party were a nationalist political party founded in 1905 by Arthur Griffith. Throughout the Irish War of Independence, Sinn Féin campaigned for independence from Britain.
In 1908, the Sinn Féin party competed in the North Lietrim by-election where the party secured 27% of the vote. Thereafter, both support and membership fell, and at the 1910 Ard Fheis (party conference) the attendance was poor, and there was difficulty finding members willing to take seats on the executive.
Following a decline in membership before 1916, support for the Sinn Féin party rose throughout their successful campaign against the introduction of military conscription in 1918.
During the anti-conscription campaign, rallies, protests, and a series of hunger-strikes were held as Irish nationalists became more radically opposed to British rule in Ireland and the rest of the Empire. Many nationalists believed the war in Europe was not there war, and they did not want to fight or die for the British Empire.
Upon the bills passing on the 16th April, the IPP withdrew from Westminster and returned to Ireland to oppose conscription. But the IPP had failed to stop conscription from spreading into Ireland, thus displaying to the Irish public that they held no form of authority over the government in London. This led to greater support for Sinn Féin.
Following their landslide victory in the 1918 general election, members of Sínn Féin refused to take their seats in the British House of Parliament. Instead, in line with their manifesto, on the 7th of January 1919, twenty-six elected republican Sinn Féin members of parliament met at the Dublin Mansion House to make plans to form a revolutionary parliament called ‘Dáil Éireann’.
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The Dáil Éireann is the national parliament of Ireland. The First Dáil Éireann met on the 21st January 1919.
Sean T O’ Kelly, George Gavan Duffy and Piaras Beaslai were among the members of the committee appointed to draft a provisional constitution for the Dáil and prepare for the public opening.
On January 21st 1919, the First Dáil Éireann met at the Mansion House. The provisional constitution of the Dáil was read and passed unanimously, then Ireland's Declaration of Independence was read in English and Irish, ratifying an Irish republic and repudiating British rule in Ireland.
On the very same day, about 120 miles away from the Mansion House, members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) ambushed and killed two policemen of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) who were escorting a crate of explosive material called gelignite from Soloheadbeg quarry.