Saturday 18 August 2018

Mary Kenny: Remembering MP Markievicz

The Countess' 1918 election was about nationalism, not feminism

Mary Kenny, writer and author. Photo: Tony Gavin
Mary Kenny, writer and author. Photo: Tony Gavin
Mary Kenny

Mary Kenny

Constance Markievicz would certainly be astonished to have been told that 100 years after she was the first woman to be elected to the House of Commons, a British Tory prime minister - also a woman - would be declaring her intention of honouring the occasion.

Yes, Theresa May has even Tweeted her pride, as a woman and a feminist, in marking the Sinn Féin victory of 1918. Truly, if you wait long enough, you see everything turn full circle. There are even suggestions that Constance's portrait should appear at Westminster.

It certainly was a moment in history when Constance was elected for the St Patrick's constituency in Dublin, in December 1918. She was in Holloway jail at the time for her part in the alleged 'German plot' (she spent three years of her life in prison) and according to her letters to her sister Eva, she viewed her election as no big deal. "My election was a foregone conclusion," she wrote, laconically. She didn't attribute the vote to any personal victory. Sinn Féin and the Transport Union were strong in the area, she observed, and they had been adept enough to concentrate on the doubtful voters.

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