Constance Markievicz to belatedly enter House of Commons

To mark women’s franchise, portrait will be given to parliament she refused to attend

Constance Markievicz: like all Sinn Féin MPs she was elected on an abstentionist platform

A portrait of Constance Markievicz is to be presented to the House of Commons as part of a programme of events to mark 100 years since women got the vote.

The presentation will be made “speaker to speaker” at the end of February. It will coincide with the centenary of the passage of the Representation of the People Act (1918), which gave women the vote and greatly expanded the franchise for men.

Markievicz became the first female MP (and subsequently TD) when she was elected by voters in the Dublin St Patrick’s constituency in the historic December 1918 British general election.

She also became one of the first female cabinet ministers in the world and was minister for labour in the governments set up by the Dáil between 1919 and 1922.


Like all Sinn Féin MPs she was elected on an abstentionist platform and never took her seat in the House of Commons. She was in Holloway Prison at the time of her election.

She will now have a presence in the British parliament, although she was involved in the Easter Rising and repudiated its right to legislate for Ireland.

Vótáil 100

Details of the portrait will be announced at the end of January, when Vótáil 100 launches its programme for the year. Vótáil 100 is a cross-party Oireachtas group set up to mark the centenary of women getting the vote.

Minister for Heritage Josepha Madigan said her department was drawing up a programme to mark the 1918 general election, which she described as a "defining moment in modern Irish history" in which Sinn Féin eclipsed the Irish Parliamentary Party.

It will include a pop-museum exhibition curated by historian Sinéad McCoole, who previously curated the Women of 1916/Mná 1916 Exhibition. The exhibition will be showcased in the Coach House at Dublin Castle from early November 2018 to January 2019 before touring the country.

Other centenaries

Other significant centenaries which will be marked next year will include the death of John Redmond in March, the sinking of the RMS Leinster in October and the Armistice in November.

Ms Madigan said she was encouraging the public to participate in the consultation process announced by her predecessor Heather Humphreys in October.

It is seeking submissions about how the second half of the decade of centenaries – which includes the War of Independence and the Civil War – should be remembered. The closing date is the end of January.

Ms Madigan said the involvement of local authorities in the Easter Rising commemoration programme was a success and she intended to replicate it in the remaining years of the decade of centenaries.

“I am of the view that local authorities will have a key role over the remainder of the decade in supporting engagement and facilitation in local communities and in developing suitable commemorative initiatives at county level in line with the national commemorative programme,” she said.

“I am currently considering how the local authorities can be supported in this role.”

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times