Celebrating 100 years of Dail Eireann in the Mansion House

by Rachel Darcy
A celebration of the Centenary of the first meeting of Dail Eireann, held at the Round Room of the Mansion House.

Monday marked a prestigious day in Irish history, as the 100th anniversary of the first meeting of the Dail was celebrated in the Mansion House.

President Michael D Higgins, his wife Sabina, representatives from the 32nd Dail and descendants of the first deputies all attended a special joint sitting of the Dail and the Seanad in celebration of the anniversary.

The commemorative sitting took place in the Mansion House’s historic Round Room and was streamed live on Oireachtas TV on Monday afternoon.

President Higgins delivered the keynote address at Monday’s event, ensuring to speak through both English and Irish in a reflection of the first Dail, which conducted its business primarily through the Irish language.

The speech was then followed by re-enactments from the formation of the first Dail, including relatives of those who were present in 1919.

Speeches were also given by An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the leaders of other political parties, including Labour’s Brendan Howlin, People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett, and co-leader of the Social Democrats, Roisin Shortall.

In his speech, Mr Varadkar described the first meeting of the Dail as a “bold, profound and decisive statement about the future of Ireland”.

The Taoiseach said: “In some ways, it was more of a symbolic statement. The Dail was a legislature without any power, 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.”

The first Dail was established by 27 Sinn Fein candidates who met at the Mansion House on January 21, 1919, to set up a rival assembly to Westminster.

The meeting took place weeks after the rocky elections of 1918, where the candidates who were elected to power rejected the Westminster parliament and declared independence.

The historic event came just two months after the First World War came to an end.

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