Diarmaid Ferriter: Roots of Dáil’s ideological sameness run deep

The first Dáil and its successors remained wedded to a conservative model of politics

Sinn Féin leaders at the First Dáil in 1919. Photograph: Hulton Archive

Sinn Féin leaders at the First Dáil in 1919. Photograph: Hulton Archive

This weekend a century ago, with the declaration of the general election results on December 28th, Sinn Féin was absorbing the scale of its triumph and its routing of the Irish Parliamentary Party. It was an election that was noteworthy for many reasons, including the extension of the franchise to men aged 21 and over and women over the age of 30 with property qualifications. But it was the extent to which it could transform Anglo-Irish relations that focused political minds in the aftermath.

Sinn Féin had promised during the election to use “any and every means available to render impotent the power of England to hold Ireland in subjection”, which was worryingly ambiguous. Less so was its promise to convene a constituent assembly and to make the case for Irish self-determination at the post-war international Peace Conference.

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