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What did the Dáil do on their first day?

Got to know the place and got shown how to work the phones?

Sinn Fein Leaders at First Dail Eireann Members of the First Dáil, 10 April 1919 First row, left to right: Laurence Ginnell, Michael Collins, Cathal Brugha, Arthur Griffith, Éamon de Valera, Count Plunkett, Eoin MacNeill, W. T. Cosgrave and Ernest Blythe. Kevin O'Higgins is in the third row (right) Source: Wikimedia

WHEN THE FIRST Dáil gathered in Dublin’s Mansion House in 1919, it was against the backdrop of a bitter war with the British Empire.

Having been given a massive vote in the 1918 General Election, Sinn Féin opted not to take their seats in Westminster, opting instead to form their own Dáil.

Comprised entirely of Sinn Féin members, business was briskly done – entirely in Irish. This was the only time the Dáil has ever sat entirely in Irish.

The attendees began by nominating Cathal Brugha as the Ceann Comhairle, then agreed the Dáil constitution. They then read the Declaration of Independence in Irish, then French (George Gavan Duffy obliged), then Edmund Duggan read the English version.

Three delegates were then selected to represent Ireland at peace talks with the British.

Eamon De Valera, who would succeed Brugha as President of the Dáil, George Noble Plunkett and Arthur Griffith were picked to go.

This was despite Griffith and De Valera being in jail in England at the time.

John Kelly, the deputy for Louth, then read a declaration to the nations of the world, asking that they recognise the Irish Republic.

In it, they said:

Ireland to-day reasserts her historic nationhood the more confidently before the new world emerging from the war, because she believes in freedom and justice as the fundamental principles of international law; because she believes in a frank co-operation between the peoples for equal rights against the vested privileges of ancient tyrannies; because the permanent peace of Europe can never be secured by perpetuating military dominion for the profit of empire but only by establishing the control of government in every land upon the basis of the free will of a free people, and the existing state of war, between Ireland and England, can never be ended until Ireland is definitely evacuated by the armed forces of England.

For these among other reasons, Ireland—resolutely and irrevocably determined at the dawn of the promised era of self-determination and liberty that she will suffer foreign dominion no longer—calls upon every free nation to uphold her national claim to complete independence as an Irish Republic against the arrogant pretensions of England founded in fraud and sustained only by an overwhelming military occupation, and demands to be confronted publicly with England at the Congress of the Nations, that the civilised world having judged between English wrong and Irish right may guarantee to Ireland its permanent support for the maintenance of her national independence.

Plunkett read the French version and Robert Barton read the English translation.

The Dáil then declared its Democratic Programme, a series of economic and social principles. Much of these were socialist in nature.

The parliament then stood down for the day, resolving to reconvene at 3.30pm the following day.

Read: Check out the Fine Gael website in 1998 and John Bruton talking about ‘surfing the internet’

Read: 6 of the dirtiest insults thrown across the floors of the Dáil and Seanad

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