TDs and senators to mark centenary of first Dáil meeting

TDs and senators to mark centenary of first Dáil meeting
The first meeting of Dáil Éireann at the Mansion House, Dublin, in 1919. Picture: HultonArchive/Illustrated London News/Getty Images

By Niall Murray

TDs and senators past and present will mark the centenary of the first meeting of Dáil Éireann next January in the same room where it took place.

An international broadcast is planned of the centrepiece of the Dáil’s centenary. All members of the parliament are likely to attend, unlike the first meeting held on January 21, 1919.

The first Dáil was formed by Sinn Féin representatives elected in the December 1918 general election. But only 27 of the 69 Sinn Féin members were able to attend its first meeting at Dublin’s Mansion House

on January 21, 1919.

Most of the others were declared to be “imprisoned by the foreigner” when the proceedings entirely in Irish commenced with a roll call, as they remained in English jails as a result of the British government’s manufactured “German plot” of 1918.

On Monday, January 21, 2019, the scene will be replicated at the Round Room of the Mansion House in front of a global TV audience. The Oireachtas plans to convene all members of the current Dáil and Seanad, as well as former members, and the judiciary for what is described as a celebration of 100 years of Irish democracy.

The Dáil’s first meeting, chaired by Cathal Brugha, was attended by the international press as the parliament issued a message to the “free nations of the world” whose ranks the assembly wanted Ireland to join. A Declaration of Independence, reiterating many aspects of the Easter 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic, was read in Irish, English and French to the assembled international reporters and cameras.

The centenary event will feature international representatives and will be aired live on RTÉ with a world feed available to international broadcasters. It will also be shown live on the Oireachtas TV feed, according to details for parties interested in tendering for the outside broadcast facilities.

“These special proceedings will feature speeches from noted dignitaries, music from noted musicians, archive montages from the past century of Irish politics and a recommitment from all political parties to the ideals of our Republic,” said the tender document from the Houses of the Oireachtas service.

The Round Room will host a series of TedX talks by second-level students about aspects of our democracy the next day, for later broadcast on Oireachtas TV.

Most members of the first Dáil had been participants in the Easter Rising, or were long-serving nationalists. Among them were Irish Volunteers founder Eoin MacNeill, JJ Walsh and Sean Hayes (the first two TDs for Cork city and West Cork, respectively), Richard Mulcahy (future IRA Chief of Staff and Defence Minister) and future president of Ireland Seán T O’Kelly. The imprisoned members included Eamon de Valera, Arthur Griffith, Terence MacSwiney and WT Cosgrave, but the majority were in attendance for the third meeting which took place on April 1, 1919.

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