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A crushing electoral victory by Sinn Féin

Wednesday, 19th December, 2018 5:01pm

In December 1918, Sinn Féin swept to a crushing victory over the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) or Irish Nationalist Party, which aimed for Irish representation and recognition at any post war peace conference.

The IPP policy was to leave negotiation to the British government. However, a new generation of young voters, and the increase of women voters over thirty, meant that vast numbers of new voters of unknown voter affiliation emerged.

It dramatically changed the make-up of the Irish electorate. Except for Waterford City, Sinn Féin won every seat outside of Ulster.

Sinn Féin MPs refused to sit in the House of Commons and instead formed Dáil Éireann in January 1919. The Irish Parliamentary Party, Irish Unionist Alliance, Labour Unionist Party and an Independent Unionist MP remained in Westminster.

On 28 December 1918, the results from Great Britain were the first to arrive. From noon onwards, results were regularly and rapidly sent to the offices of Cork, Dublin and Belfast evening papers.

The Irish political tide was well estimated during the previous fortnight. That of Great Britain supplied many surprises, though there were few who failed to realise the extent of the costly campaign which Coalitionists waged to secure its decisive governmental majority. The surprises generally voiced were the defeat of the Asquithian Liberals and the failure of the Labour Party while as between Ireland and Great Britain, the respective strengths at an early hour were sized up as Sinn Féin and Coalition.

Just before 7pm the result of the Cork poll was declared, and soon after the results were delivered from the upper steps of the Cork Courthouse to the people waiting.

JJ Walsh, who headed the Cork City MP poll, was seen descending the steps making his way to the street. He was instantly rushed and raised shoulder high, while from a number of women large bouquets of flowers were presented to him.

Soon after Liam De Róiste came in for an equally enthusiastic reception. This procession then passed through Great George's Street (now Washington Street) and St Patrick’s Street, and back again to the Grand Parade.

James J Walsh, of Dublin origin, was a member of Cork Corporation and was for a long time connected with the GAA in the south, being Chairman of the Cork County Board for many years.

He fought in the 1916 Rising, was sentenced to death, but afterwards he was commuted to penal servitude, and released under general amnesty. He went through forcible feeding and was on four hunger strikes including that under which Thomas Ashe died. He was also sentenced to two years' hard labour for speeches delivered in the north.

Liam De Róiste was a technical instructor, was president of the Sinn Féin Executive, and was one of the earliest secretaries of the Cork Industrial Development Association. He was the author of several books and pamphlets on temperance and industrial development.

For Mid Cork, Terence MacSwiney, was elected. He was in charge of the Cork Sinn Féin Volunteers up to Easter Week, and after the surrender in Dublin, he was deported. He was again arrested in May 1918, and deported, and in December 1918, he was in Lincoln Gaol.

He was a commercial instructor and was an author of several national dramas and poems. A fluent Irish speaker and scholar, he had been for many years an active Gaelic League proponent.

For Cork East, David Kent was elected. After the Easter Rising he had been sentenced to death, which was commuted to five years' penal servitude in connection with the resistance offered to police raid on his house at Castlelyons in 1916. David Kent was subsequently arrested in connection with a speech he delivered in North Cork, and the charge of inciting to murder was thrown out by the grand jury.

For Cork South, Michael Collins was elected. He fought in the GPO at the Rising and was deported to Frongoch in Wales. On his return he was appointed Secretary of the Prisoners' National Defence Fund.

For Cork East, Diarmuid Lynch was elected. For his participation in the Easter Rising, he was sentenced to death which was afterwards commuted to ten years' penal servitude. He was released due to the amnesty of 1917. He was arrested again in early 1918 and sentenced to two months' imprisonment for his part in the well-known Sinn Féin Food Supply scheme.

At the execution of his sentence, being an American citizen, he was deported to the US. He was a native of the Kinsale district and did prominent work for the Gaelic League including a special mission with Thomas Ashe to America.

For North Cork, Padraic O’Keeffe was elected. He was for some years general secretary of Sinn Féin up to his arrest in May 1918. He took part in the fighting in the GPO. At the time of his election, he was a prisoner in England.

For Cork North East, Thomas Hunter was elected. He had commanded the 4th Battalion of Volunteers at Jacob's at the Easter Rising. He was sentenced to death, which was afterwards changed to penal servitude. He was released under the general amnesty, but was re-arrested the previous May, and was at the time of his election in an English prison.

For Cork West, Sean Hayes was elected. He fought in the GPO at the Easter Rising and was deported to Frongoch. After his release he returned to Cork and was appointed editor of the Southern Star when that paper was taken over by Sinn Féin.


Happy Christmas to all readers of the column.

If you missed a column this year, check out the indices at Kieran’s heritage website,

Kieran’s new book, ‘Cork in Fifty Buildings’ (2018, Amberley Publishing) is now available in Cork bookshops.

Kieran is also showcasing some of the older column series on the River Lee on his heritage Facebook page at the moment, Cork Our City, Our Town.

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