Monday 18 February 2019

Letters to the Editor: 'Forgotten election was seismic event in shaping our future'

The Sinn Fein members elected in the December 1918 election at the first Dail Eireann meeting, called by Sinn Fein on January 21, 1919. Shown are (from l to r): 1st row: L. Ginell, Michael Collins (leader of the Irish Republican Army), Cathal Brugha, Arthur Griffiths (founder of Sinn Fein), Eamon de Valera (president of the Irish Republic), Count E. MacNeill, William Cosgrave and E. Blythe; 2nd row: P. Maloney, Terence McSwiney (Lord Mayor of Dublin), Richard Mulcahy, J. O'Doherty, J. O'Mahony, J. Dolan, J. McGuinness, P. O'Keefe, Michael Staines, McGrath, Dr. B. Cussack, L. de Roiste, W. Colivet and the Reverend Father Michael O'Flanagan (vice-president of Sinn Fein); 3rd row: P. War, A. McCabe, D. Fitzgerald, J. Sweeney, Dr. Hayes, C. Collins, P. O'Maillie, J. O'Mara, B. O'Higgins, J. Burke and Kevin O'Higgins; 4th row: J. McDonagh and J. McEntee; 5th row: P. B 1919 Ireland
The Sinn Fein members elected in the December 1918 election at the first Dail Eireann meeting, called by Sinn Fein on January 21, 1919. Shown are (from l to r): 1st row: L. Ginell, Michael Collins (leader of the Irish Republican Army), Cathal Brugha, Arthur Griffiths (founder of Sinn Fein), Eamon de Valera (president of the Irish Republic), Count E. MacNeill, William Cosgrave and E. Blythe; 2nd row: P. Maloney, Terence McSwiney (Lord Mayor of Dublin), Richard Mulcahy, J. O'Doherty, J. O'Mahony, J. Dolan, J. McGuinness, P. O'Keefe, Michael Staines, McGrath, Dr. B. Cussack, L. de Roiste, W. Colivet and the Reverend Father Michael O'Flanagan (vice-president of Sinn Fein); 3rd row: P. War, A. McCabe, D. Fitzgerald, J. Sweeney, Dr. Hayes, C. Collins, P. O'Maillie, J. O'Mara, B. O'Higgins, J. Burke and Kevin O'Higgins; 4th row: J. McDonagh and J. McEntee; 5th row: P. B 1919 Ireland
Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

Congratulations to RTÉ on the documentary series ‘The Irish Revolution’, which started on Monday. In the first episode, the narrator informed us that Britain “rejected the democratic mandate of the Irish people”, as clearly expressed in the 1918 election. It is rare to hear this simple fact of history so boldly stated.

For too long, the dominant narrative in Irish historiography has succeeded in downplaying the reality of this seminal event in Irish revolutionary history – to the extent that it became known as ‘the forgotten election’. Roy Foster, former professor of Irish history at Oxford, for example, devoted less than half a page in his almost 400-page opus, ‘Vivid Faces’, to the December 1918 election, and failed to accord it any real significance.

Back in 1965, by contrast, the eminent JC Beckett, from the unionist community, acknowledged the seismic result in ‘The Making of Modern Ireland’ as follows: “Sinn Féin could now claim, with justice, to represent majority opinion in Ireland.”

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Democracy would have dictated that Britain withdrew its troops, thereafter, and disbanded its armed police. But, then, that is hardly what empires are about.

The first episode was not without its faults, however, such as the assigning of the Famine to the failure of the potato crop – without reference to the bulging granaries and the well-fed animals in our fields throughout the period in question.

Billy Fitzpatrick

Terenure, Dublin 6W

Our sense of national identity always comes from the heart

What strikes me most about British discussion of the backstop is the general unawareness of the symbolic significance of the absence of visible Border controls.

At the height of the Troubles, I made several trips to Belfast with my father who painfully endured the scrutiny of the contents of the car and our identities at the Border controls. He openly declared: “This is a dreadful experience in one’s own country.”

When the English team plays Ireland in the annual Six Nations rugby union championship, they experience Ireland as one nation; they do not see themselves as playing a bit of Ireland. My friends in Belfast and those in Dublin equally felt the pain of our recent unexpected defeat.

Whenever someone asks me which part of Ireland I come from my answer is invariably, “all of it”. This is not to make some hidden nationalist political point but a genuine expression of my sense of Irish identity.

National identity can never be determined by lines drawn on a map or established through the barrel of a gun.

Our sense of our national identity is rooted in the heart more than the head. Though Northern Ireland is a distinct political entity, whenever I visit I cannot shake off the feeling that the historical and geographical arbitrariness of the Border has not placed me in a world apart from the rest of Ireland.

Philip O’Neill

Oxford, UK

Free public transport would bring huge benefits to capital

From this summer, public transport will be free in Luxembourg, and this initiative is something that city planners in Dublin should also be considering.

Our capital city is bursting and gridlock is a daily frustration. Free public transport would cut congestion, benefit the environment and would be a progressive, socially inclusive measure that would help low-paid workers and young people with little disposable income as a result of spiralling rents and bloated mortgages.

For those concerned that free public transport will inflict an unaffordable charge on the Exchequer, it is worth noting public transport in Dublin is already heavily subsidised. In 1999, the government introduced the Taxsaver scheme, which incentivises people to use public transport to and from work, and, in some cases, results in savings of more than 50pc of the regular price. By going the whole way and abolishing ticket charges, the Government will help tackle air pollution and get Dublin moving more freely. Surely this is a worthwhile investment in our capital city’s future?

Denise McMorrow

Tolka Road, Dublin 3

Vaping clouds the issue of reducing number of smokers

With regard to your article about people saying vaping can be used to help the Government reach its reduced smoking targets (‘Use vaping to cut smoker numbers, Government told’, Irish Independent, February 4), it makes about as much sense as using cocaine to cut heroin addiction or using wine to cut whiskey addiction.

In terms of being extremely unpleasant and unhealthy to the people sitting next to it, great clouds from vaping are possibly even worse than cigarettes.

Richard Barton

Maynooth, Co Kildare

Irish Independent

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