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Whirlwind of change Giant step towards freedom


Countess Markievicz in a ball gown pictured circa 1900

Countess Markievicz in a ball gown pictured circa 1900

Countess Markievicz in a ball gown pictured circa 1900

February 5, 1918 Representation of the People Act becomes law. The act gave the parliamentary vote to all men over 21 and to all women over 30 who were householders, the wives of householders, occupiers of property of a yearly value of not less than £5, or university graduates.

March 21 - July 18, 1918 The Spring Offensive

This was German military leaders' last gamble to win the war before the Allies, reinforced by American troops, became too strong. Despite making major gains, the German army fails to pierce the Allies' line. Weakened by the loss of their best troops and hampered by over-extended supply lines, the German army falls vulnerable to Allied counter-offensives. In mid-July, 1918, French and American forces start an offensive, followed by the British army's offensive in August 1918. This marks the military turning point of the war.

April 21, 1918 Anti-conscription pledge signed by nationalists

In response to the passing of the Military Service Bill by the House of Commons, which empowers the British government to enforce conscription on all Irish men of military age, an anti-conscription pledge is signed throughout the country. The pledge is brought about by the Irish Anti-Conscription Committee, an alliance of leading Irish nationalists, including Éamon de Valera, John Dillon and Arthur Griffith. The move, which is supported by the Catholic Church in Ireland, reflects the mood amongst the Irish public towards what has become an increasingly unpopular war. Although the Irish Parliamentary Party spearheads opposition to the Military Service Bill at Westminster, Sinn Féin is the most vocal proponent of the anti-conscription movement and claims a large degree of support throughout the country.

November 11, 1918 Armistice: End of WWI

As the threat posed by the Allied forces becomes insurmountable, the German command make moves towards ending the War. The armistice is formally signed in General Ferdinand Foch's railway carriage in the forest of Compiègne. Since the beginning of the war, more than 16 million have died, including an estimated seven million civilians.

December 14, 1918 General election

Sinn Féin wins by a landslide and replaces the Irish Parliamentary Party as the dominant political force in Ireland. The British government calls a general election, the first since 1910. Ireland, still part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, had 103 of a total of 670 seats in Westminster.

After the victories in the 1917 by-elections, de Valera leads his party to victory in the first general election following the signing of the Armistice. The party wins 73 seats, leaving 26 seats for the Unionist Party and six for the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP).

The defeat spells the end for the IPP, and reflects the role of the Easter Rising in provoking a radical upsurge in the nationalist ambitions of the Irish public.

The election is also notable for the election of Countess Constance Markievicz, who becomes the first woman to be elected to the British House of Commons. Markievicz does not take her seat in Westminster, however, as Sinn Féin chooses to follow a policy of abstention.

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