The First Dáil
Following the landslide victory in the General Election of 1918,
with republicans winning 73 out of 105 seats, Sinn Féin implemented
a policy of abstentionism. On January 21st, 1919, at 3:30pm the
elected republicans convened in the Mansion House, Dublin, and established
Dáil Éireann. (Those who had been elected for the
Irish Nationalist Party and the Unionist Party had been invited
to attend but did not do so). Less than half of the Sinn Féin
deputies were actually present as many of those elected were either
in prison or "on the run".
The proceedings were presided over by Cathal Brugha. A Declaration
of Independence was read out in Irish and English, followed by the
reading of An Address to the Free Nations of the World in Irish,
English and French. A Democratic Programme was adopted by the Dáil.
This was a remarkable social document, signifying as it did, the
intent of the government of the Irish Republic to enact into social
policy the sentiments of a republicanism which encompassed a distinctly
socialist perspective combined with the demands for liberty, equality
and justice first expressed by the United Irishmen.
One of the tasks facing the Dáil was to seek recognition
for the newly established Republic both at home and abroad. On February
3rd, the International Labour and Socialist conference declared
in favour of recognising the Irish Republic. In April the Irish
TUC and Labour Party congress unanimously recognised Dáil
Éireann as the national government. The Soviet Republic of
Russia became the first country to officially recognise the Irish
Republic, whilst the Second International demanded that "the
principle of free and absolute self-determination shall be applied
immediately in the case of Ireland."
On September 11th, 1919, Dáil Éireann was suppressed
as an illegal assembly. This was one of a number of unsuccessful
attempts by the British establishment to subvert the revolutionary
struggle for independence. The influence of Dáil Éireann
continued to grow in the face of such harassment.
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