Special Meeting of Cork County Council as it Recognises County’s Role in First Dáil

By Seamus Whelehan

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One Hundred years on from the commencement of the first Dáil, Cork County Council was among a number of Local Authorities who commemorated the event on Monday, 21 January.  The election of 14 December 1918 was the first time that all men over the age of 21, and women over the age of 30, had the right to cast a vote.   Out of 103 elected TD’s there were 9 from Cork, one woman Countess Markievicz and 73 members of Sinn Féin.

The Cork representatives were Liam De Róiste, James J Walsh, David Kent, Terence MacSwiney, Patrick O’Keeffe, Thomas Hunter, Michael Collins, Diarmuid Lynch and Seán Hayes.  On the day only two Cork men sat at the first meeting in the Mansion House on 21 January 1919. The other seven elected representatives were either in jail, deported or marked as absent.

Holding through to the inaugural meeting of Dáil Eireann the proceedings were held in both Irish and French in County Hall.   Dr Neil Buttimer, professor of Irish Modern History at UCC, delivered the key note address in which he said Cork played a major role in the new Ireland. “Proportionately Cork was very strong, Dublin would have had 13 electoral areas as did the Belfast Antrim area. Cork stood out numerically, more so than other parts of Ireland.” “The Clerk of the Dáil was from Cork and several of his assistants. There were only 2 Cork people on the day. When things got going in the following days, the Cork presence was very pronounced in terms of Motions put forward and what they recommended” Dr Buttimer said.

Michael Collins was appointed Home Affairs Minister and later given the role as Minister for Finance.  Liam De Roiste was first given the task to decide Dail salaries and later appointed Leas Ceann Comhairle.  On the 20 August 1920 both David Rice Kent and Terrence McSwiney took up positions on a number of sub-committees to promote investment in Agriculture.

Fianna Fail Cllr Frank O’Flynn, Chairman of the Cork County Council All Party Commemorations Committee said all the committee members were “immensely proud” and “fully appreciate the importance of commemorating all those who have gone before us in making Ireland the better place it is today.”  The committee was established in 2015 to honour a decade of key Irish landmark events which began with the 100th anniversary of the 1916 rising.

100 years ago Cork County Council’s Chairman was none other than William Kent, who lost his mother two years prior, and two of his brothers Richard and Thomas Kent, in 1916. Another brother David, from Castlelyons, sat on the first Dail along with Thomas Hunter of Castletownroche and Patrick O’Keeffe from Cullen”. CEO Tim Lucey said “Cork is very proud of its history and TDs who participated in the first Dáil seeing the importance of what they were doing.”  Fine Gael Cllr Sinead Sheppard said it was good to see the Dáil had a better representation of women now than it did in 1919.

Independent Cllr Diarmaid O’Cadhla said it was only right to honour the principles of the first Dáil in relation to the rights of the Irish people, the rights of the Nation and their vision for the future of the country.”

He said, however, that Irish society hasn’t progressed very far despite a series of successive Governments with “a crisis that affects all aspects of our life. Look at housing, homelessness, the health system - things are worse than they were.”

“Today, as we look back, we should bend our heads in shame” the Irish language activist said.

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