John Dillon and women’s suffrage


Sir, – Arising out of Elaine Callinan’s excellent article (Opinion, December 14th), and indeed many other recent comments, could I venture to put in a word in defence of my grandfather John Dillon’s remarks on women’s suffrage, to the effect that, in his view, votes for women would mean “the disturbing of western civilisation”.

While granting that this was by no means his finest moment, and far from the most auspicious lead-in to an election in which women had gained the vote for the first time, I think it not irrelevant to note that, in the summer of 1912, when he made these remarks to a delegation of suffragettes, two incidents had just occurred which might have affected his views.

The first was the hurling of a hatchet by suffragette Mary Leigh at a carriage containing the British PM, HH Asquith, and Dillon’s colleague John Redmond, which fortunately killed nobody, but grazed Redmond’s ear; while the second, shortly afterwards, was an (also unsuccessful) attempt by a group of suffragettes to burn down the Theatre Royal. And these were of course only the latest, and closest to home, of quite a succession of such efforts by that very feisty group of ladies.

So, while very properly maintaining our attitude of outrage at such obscurantism, I would beg leave to put in a plea for considering also the historical context.– Yours, etc,


Howth, Dublin13.