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100 years on from 'bold, decisive' first Dail meeting

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Ceann Comhairle, Sean O Fearghail, with President Michael D Higgins and Cathaoirleach and Senator Denis O’Donovan. Photo: Maxwells/PA Wire

Ceann Comhairle, Sean O Fearghail, with President Michael D Higgins and Cathaoirleach and Senator Denis O’Donovan. Photo: Maxwells/PA Wire

Ceann Comhairle, Sean O Fearghail, with President Michael D Higgins and Cathaoirleach and Senator Denis O’Donovan. Photo: Maxwells/PA Wire

Dublin's Mansion House went back in time yesterday as it marked 100 years since the first ever Dail.

The commemorative sitting took place in the Round Room, with descendants of those elected to the first Dail in attendance.

The first meeting in the Mansion House included candidates who had been elected to Westminster, but refused to sit there.

Dimly lit globe lights hung from the ceiling yesterday and there were swathes of blue fabric around the balcony, to reflect the atmosphere of the time.

On arrival, guests were handed a book with a green linen cover - a reproduction of the first official report of the proceedings on January 21, 1919. Back then, those present included Maud Gonne, American naval officers and Father Michael O'Flanagan, who gave the opening prayer.

Leaders

This time, former president Mary McAleese, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, former taoisigh Bertie Ahern, Brian Cowen and Enda Kenny, Dail members and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris were in attendance.

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin and Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin were among church leaders present.

Former Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood were among politicians from the North at the event.

In a speech, Mr Varadkar said the first meeting was a "bold, profound and decisive statement about the future of Ireland".

"In some ways, it was more of a symbolic statement: the Dail was a legislature without any power," he said.

"But as symbolism went, it was incredibly powerful.

"It proclaimed the essential democratic nature of the Irish revolution, the value it placed on parliamentary institutions, and its aspirations for a free, independent and democratic state."

He hailed those who had contributed to the "new Irish State" and pointed to where the State had "fallen short" over the years.


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