‘People’s Dáil’ called to mark centenary of parliament’s first meeting

Union head says democratic programme drawn up 100 years ago has been ‘ditched’

A file photograph of the  Mansion House on  Dawson Street in Dublin where the first meeting of the Dáil took place on January 21st, 1919. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times.

A file photograph of the Mansion House on Dawson Street in Dublin where the first meeting of the Dáil took place on January 21st, 1919. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times.

 

The public have been invited to make part in a nationwide forum to mark the centenary of the first Dáil.

The Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum is hosting a ‘people’s Dáil’ on January 26th in Liberty Hall and has issued an invitation to civic groups, trade unions and politicians from both sides of the Border.

The organisers anticipate that the gathering will be a prelude to a series of regional assemblies and workshops across Ireland.

John Douglas, general secretary of Mandate trade union, said it was “critical that we have a progressive conversation about what kind of Ireland we want going into the future”.

He said the alternative to a progressive movement could end up being filled by “very dangerous, reactionary forces” of the right as has been seen elsewhere in Europe.

Mr Douglas maintained the occasion of the centenary of the first Dáil will be a time for reflection on the last 100 years. He said the State had successes, but the democratic programme of the first Dáil, which spoke of a republic being based on the principals of equality and justice, remained unfulfilled.

“It was ditched,” he said. “Why it was ditched is a question we need to ask ourselves. If we are serious about creating a republic, we need to quickly analyse where we came from and ask the people what programme we need for the next 100 years.”

Insecurity

Forum organiser Eugene McCartan said everybody was welcome to participate regardless of political affiliation. He said the issues facing Irish society, North and South, included homelessness, low paid employment, a two tier health service and insecurity in old age.

The first Dáil met in the Round Room of the Mansion House on January 21st, 1919. The event will be marked by a special all-party sitting of the Oireachtas in the same venue on the anniversary. The assembled politicians will be addressed by President Michael D Higgins.

From January 18th to 20th, the Manion House will be open to the public, which Lord Mayor of Dublin Nial Ring said was a fitting move.

“People can visit to see and experience the birthplace of the Dáil, a political institution which we all have a role in. Now you can see where it all began, he said.

“As my predecessor lord mayor Laurence O’Neill, who granted use of the Mansion House to hold the first Dáil meetings, said ‘We are in the freest spot upon earth and from time to time there met within the portals of the Mansion House people of different degrees - socially, politically and perhaps morally. Indeed, on the flag outside might be inscribed the legend that the Mansion House is the home of civil and religious liberty’.”