Saturday 24 February 2018

Stepping back in time but issues not polls apart

Ken Sweeney Entertainment Editor

IT's time for a change.

It could have read as an election poster slogan for any of the main opposition parties. But it appears the theme was just as relevant back in 1933 as the forefathers of both today's political parties battled for the hearts and minds of the population.

Footage of the posters can be seen in these stills from a British Pathé newsreel of the day, which opens with a caption setting the scene: "Electors register record polls in general election fraught with importance to the future history of the Irish Free State."

At the time, the existing Government of Eamon de Valera's Fianna Fail was going head to head with William T Cosgrave's Cumann na nGaedheal.

The scene had been set when, having won an election the previous year, de Valera dropped a bombshell by dissolving the Dail on January 2, 1933.

"De Valera had been in coalition with Labour but wanted a majority. The other parties lacked funds at the time to fight an election, so it was a clever move by him," historian and writer Tim Pat Coogan told the Irish Independent.

In an era when Britain looked down on its recently self-governing former colony, the Pathé comm-entator was only too happy to resort to stereotypes.

Showing Alfred Byrne, Lord Mayor of Dublin, the newsreel recounts: "Just after we took these pictures he went to another polling station where he was set upon by a young hooligan and promptly knocked him down with a straight left. He said he was fully aware of the dignity of his office but said no Irish man could allow himself to be struck without retaliation."

But worse was to come in Pathé's summing up of polling day on January 24, 1933. "The great thing to remember about voting in Ireland is get there early. Otherwise you will probably find someone else has voted in your name. This time a few people appear to have gone even one better, and voted for people who are dead. Still that's Ireland and who would want or expect it different?"

The 1933 General Election returned Fianna Fail to power with an overall majority.

"The win gave de Valera a free hand to start the economic war with Britain. Fianna Fail governed uninterrupted till 1948," added Mr Coogan, author of 'Ireland in the Twentieth Century'.

See the 1933 Election clip on the British Pathe website

A round up of Pathe clips on Irish elections

Irish Independent

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