90th anniversary of first Dáil celebrated

 

THE 90TH anniversary of the first Dáil will be commemorated with a joint sitting of both Houses of the Oireachtas today in the Mansion House, Dublin.

To mark the historic event that took place on January 21st, 1919, members of the current Dáil and Seanad and invited guests will gather in the Round Room at the Dawson Street venue at 11am.

The Irish Times, with the Houses of the Oireachtas, will publish a special commemorative supplement tomorrow to mark the occasion.

The Mansion House event will be attended by former taoisigh and descendents of TDs elected to the first Dáil. The current Taoiseach, Ceann Comhairle, Cathaoirleach, other party leaders and political representatives are due to address the meeting.

Representatives of the Northern Ireland Assembly and members of the European Parliament have been invited to attend.

Ceann Comhairle John O’Donoghue said that the commemorative sitting would salute the patriotism and courage of those who gave a voice to the people of Ireland’s expression of self-determination in the 1918 general election.

“Nowadays, it is very easy for parliamentarians to take for granted our ability to put ourselves freely forward for election, to freely canvass the electorate and to propose our ideas without censorship,” he said.

“Maybe as a people, we can sometimes forget that some gave all so that we could cast our vote in our country for our government of choice. We owe a lot to those pioneers who took the first steps on the road.”

Cathaoirleach of the Seanad, Senator Pat Moylan, said the first meeting of the Dáil was truly a pivotal moment in Ireland’s history.

“Not only did members declare our independence and ratify a constitution, they also set out an ambitious vision for a democratic and inclusive state,” he said.

“For its time this vision was revolutionary, and as a nation we can still learn a lot from our founding fathers.”

Only 28 of the 73 Sinn Féin representatives elected to the first Dáil were able to attend the meeting, as many were either in prison or on the run. Among those in prison were Sinn Féin president Eamon de Valera, Arthur Griffith and Countess Markievicz.

The new parliament adopted four significant documents on its first day: the Constitution of Dáil Éireann, the Declaration of Independence, the Message to the Free Nations of the World and the Democratic Programme.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin has also organised a series of events, including a walking tour of streets around the Mansion House and the launch of a commemorative publication.

A Houses of the Oireachtas parliamentary fellowship is being created to encourage the study of the development of Ireland’s parliamentary and political system. Details of a photographic exhibition entitled 90 Years of Parliamentary Democracywill be announced in March.