The establishment and opening of Dáil Éireann the first truly Irish Parliament on January 21st 1919 was one of the defining political actions in Irish history in nearly 800 years. The Irish nation has this as its independence day even if the state fails to give it any official recognition and even if it didn’t last very long.
On that day the newly elected TD’s gathered together in Dublin’s Mansion House and established Dáil Éireann the first ever truly Irish Parliament where they proclaimed Irish Independence. That is surely worthy of celebration for Irish people.
Their decision to establish a republic demonstrated their commitment to end all legal and economic ties with the United Kingdom and the Crown. They were determined not to accept any kind of limited dominion status or ‘Home Rule’ as part of the UK which had been repeatedly dangled before the Irish nation and then withdrawn whenever it suited British political interests. The Dáil Deputies then adapted the Irish Declaration of independence and set about the establishment of the organs of the state. That surely establishes Independence day.
The Schizophrenic State
One of the states ideas of independence is December 6th. Nobody in their right mind in Ireland wants to remember never mind celebrate that Treaty date which was a dilution of the independence declared by the first Dáil.
On that day in 1921 the ‘Treaty’ was signed. Churchill recalled of Michael Collins on the night before the signing saying he “looked as if he were going to shoot someone, preferably himself”. Collins, and the rest of the Irish delegation to the Treaty negotiations had conceded Irish independence for a British created ‘Free State’ and that to them did not feel worthy of celebration then and is nothing for us to celebrate now.
The British created Free State
A suggestion that Irish independence should be celebrated on January 16th comes from Dennis Kennedy because on that day in 1922 the British government ceded Dublin Castle to a group of Irishmen representing the British created Free State. That’s a weak reason for celebration and doesn’t hold any sway as it was just a procedural ceremony
An Irregular Junta
The British did not cede the Castle to Dáil Éireann, the parliament established by the elected representatives of the Irish nation. The British turned the Castle over to an irregular junta appointed by the so-called ‘Parliament of Southern Ireland’.
That assembled ‘parliament’ was a rump of pro-Treaty Dáil Éireann TD’s gone rogue and four Unionist MP’s from Trinity College. Elected TD’s from the Six Counties were excluded as the British had already created partition.
At this meeting with a cobbled together quorum on January14th 1922 this cobbled together ‘parliament’ put together for the day purported to ratify the Articles of Agreement signed in London. Dáil Éireann and its Irish mandate were not recognised by the British. Such a day would hardly be a good candidate for Irelands Independence day.
In 2017 the Seanad voted to recognise January 21st as Ireland’s day of Independence, a day to be commemorated but not as a public holiday. Senator Keith Swanick who proposed the ‘Declaration of Independence Day Bill 2017′, recommended that ’21 January be known as Declaration of Independence Day, and be celebrated annually. The Bill was conveniently lost and forgotten about before reaching its Second Stage in the Leinster House ‘Dáil’.
Many consider Ireland’s Independence Day to be April 24th. The Proclamation of the Irish Republic commenced the Easter Rising on April 24, 1916. That is a day to remember with pride and is indeed a worthy candidate for Independence Day. So now we have two genuinely and equally worthy days. The April 24th 1916 events are well known by most of us but not the events of January 21st 1919 so let’s look at them a little closer
January 21st 1919
At 3.30 in the afternoon of January 21st 1919 Irelands newly elected representatives assembled in Dublin’s Mansion House where they convened the first meeting of Dáil Éireann. The non Republican Deputies did not attend. Since the President of Sinn Fein was in Lincoln Jail and Arthur Griffith was also in jail, Count Plunkett that Cathal Brugha should preside. After the opening prayer read by Fr O’Flanagan the clerks of the Dáil for the day were appointed. As the roll was called ‘Fe ghlas ag Gallaibh’ (“Imprisoned by the foreign enemy”) was the answer given to name after name. Of the 73 Republicans elected 36 were in jail.
The provisional Constitution of the Dáil was read and passed unanimously.
Then with everyone present standing Irelands declaration of Independence was read in Irish and in English.
“Deputies” Cathal Brugha said when the reading was finished, “You understand from what is asserted in this Declaration that we are now done with England. Let the world know it and those who are concerned bear it in mind.”
The Deputies standing affirmed:
“We adopt this Declaration of Independence and we pledge ourselves to put it into effect by every means in our power.”
The Dáil then appointed three Delegates to the Peace Conference Eamon de Valera, Arthur Griffith and Count Plunkett.
An Address to the Free Nations of the World was then read in Irish, French and English and was adopted. It called upon “every free nation to support the Irish Republic by recognising Irelands national status and her right to its vindication at the peace Congress,” and declared that Ireland was “resolutely and irrevocably determined,” at the dawn of the promised era of self-determination and liberty, that she will suffer foreign domination no longer.”
Then was read and adopted unanimously the Democratic Programme of Dáil Éireann, founded on the Easter Week Proclamation:
The first session of Dáil Éireann then concluded having lasted just two hours – two of the most momentous hours in Ireland’s history.