17 September 2009 Edition
Remembering the Past BY MÍCHEÁL Mac DONNCHA
British Government bans Dáil Éireann
BY MÍCHEÁL Mac DONNCHA
FOLLOWING the Declaration of Independence of the Irish Republic and the establishment of Dáil Éireann in January 1919, the Irish people had a functioning government but one which was increasingly subject to British repression. Many TDs were in jail or on the run yet the Dáil set up a number of departments, sent diplomatic missions abroad and began replacing the British legal system with Republican Courts.
The British Government showed no sign of recognising Irish democracy. It was emboldened on the international front as Britain and France had totally dominated the post-war negotiations at the Versailles Peace Conference and blocked the efforts of representatives of Ireland, India, Egypt and other subject nations from receiving a hearing. In June, US President Woodrow Wilson admitted that he could not fulfil his much-publicised commitment to the self-determination of nations.
On 20 August, the Dáil approved an oath to the Irish Republic to be taken by all TDs and IRA Volunteers. Armed actions by the IRA were being stepped up, as were British military reprisals, raids and arrests. The IRA had begun to target the British Intelligence network and to acquire arms in greater numbers.
One of the main factors motivating the next move against the Dáil by the British Government was the success of the Dáil Éireann Loan. In April Republican Bonds to the value of £250,000 in sums of £1 to £1000 were issued which citizens were encouraged to purchase to support the work of the Dáil. The Loan was a major success but the British soon cracked down on it.
During the earlier part of 1919, the Dáil’s business was conducted mostly in Sinn Féin Ard Oifig, 6 Harcourt Street, Dublin (now Ard Oifig of Conradh na Gaeilge). Later, 76 Harcourt Street was purchased and various ministries were in offices around the city. But the days of the Dáil working openly were numbered. On 10 September, the British regime in Dublin Castle declared Dáil Éireann an “illegal association” and it was driven underground. This ban was followed by the suppression of newspapers, including the Cork Examiner, which carried the prospectus for the Dáil Loan.
The Dáil Cabinet and all departments had to operate in secret and 19 houses and one hotel – Vaughan’s in Parnell Square – were used as meeting places. The full Dáil could rarely meet and when it did so it was mostly in the large house of Alderman Walter Cole in Mountjoy Square or Fleming’s Hotel in Gardiner Place, which was owned by Seán O’Mahoney TD.
Dáil Éireann was suppressed by the British Government 90 years ago, on 10 September 1919.