Constance Markievicz honoured in Westminster event

Reproduction of 1901 oil painting of the Countess will go on permanent display

Speaker John Bercow has accepted a picture of Constance Markievicz, the first woman elected to the House of Commons, from Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl at an event at Westminster.

The photographic reproduction of a 1901 oil painting of Countess Markievicz, owned by the Hugh Lane gallery in Dublin, will go on public display in the British parliament’s “Voice and Vote” exhibition on women in parliament until October 6th before going on permanent display at Westminster.

Mr Ó Fearghaíl said he was delighted to ensure that, although Countess Markievicz did not take her seat at Westminster, she would now have a place there.

“She was a hugely complex individual, a firebrand, someone I think you would have been delighted to have known. But I think she’s also someone who made the transition from armed republicanism to the democratic, peaceful approach.


"She's a major figure in the suffrage movement and she's highly symbolic for us now at a period when we're all straining to achieve greater female participation in the democratic process," the Ceann Comhairle told The Irish Times.

“We can’t be terribly proud of the fact that we’ve just 32 per cent female participation in the Seanad, only 22 per cent in the Dáil.

“We need to see more women involved and I think we can look back over 100 years and see a phenomenal figure in the person of Constance Markievicz who gave early leadership to the suffragette movement and who really showed her worth. Because when she got into government, she was pretty much immediately appointed to cabinet where she became the first female cabinet minister in western Europe.”

Parliamentary Art Collection

Mr Bercow said Countess Markievicz occupied a singular place in British and Irish history, adding that the picture will now join parliament’s permanent collection.

“It is fitting that in the centenary year of the 1918 parliament (Qualification of Women) Act, we mark the contribution of Constance Markievicz who, as the first woman elected to parliament, holds a unique place in British and Irish history. The picture of Markievicz will now join the Parliamentary Art Collection: a testament to the past, and an inspiration to future generations,” he said.

Co Armagh-born Labour MP Conor McGinn, chair of Westminster’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Ireland and the Irish in Britain, described Countess Markievicz as a formidable figure whose courage and determination to achieve equal rights and Irish freedom saw her become the first woman ever elected to the House of Commons.

“It is a sign of the strength and depth of today’s relations between Britain and Ireland – and our democratic institutions – that her contribution to our shared and complicated history is marked in the Parliament to which she was elected but never attended, and that her legacy and contribution is remembered a century after women’s suffrage and the historic 1918 election,” he said.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times