Featured Document of the Month
Letter from Thomas Nathan (44 Lower Beachwood Avenue, Ranelagh, Dublin, [Ireland]) to WSC, 11 December 1918
This month marks 100 years since the December 1918 election, in which Sinn Féin, (a party heavily associated with the movement for an independent Ireland) won a landslide majority in Ireland. This is now seen as a pivotal moment in the history of the country.
The upsurge in popularity for Sinn Féin can be linked to the 1916 Easter Rising, in which Irish republicans launched an armed rebellion against British rule from key locations in Dublin. The British authorities dubbed this as “The Sinn Féin Rising”, which showed the commonly-held belief that the party was behind the rebellion. Though Britain was engaged in the First World War at the time, great efforts were made to quell the resistance. Sinn Féin also became associated with the opposition against a movement by the British government to introduce conscription, which also amassed a great deal of support.
Thomas Nathan, as he states in the featured letter dated three days before the election, is not writing “from the Sinn Fein [sic] point of view” but advocates a movement for a constitution in Ireland. Nathan refers to the treatment of Ireland alongside Alsace-Lorraine and German Poland as “a nice example of the consistency of English statesmen”. By this, he is highlighting the Allies’ support for repatriating Poland and Alsace-Lorraine from Germany as a comparison point for the continued British occupation of Ireland. Nathan asks Churchill, “Are we not entitled to the same measure of justice as other small nations in Europe[?]”.
Sinn Féin candidates won 73 seats out of 105 altogether in this election, including Constance Markievicz, the first elected female MP. As written in the Sinn Féin constitution (and still upheld today), the members refused to sit in Westminster Parliament. Instead, they formed the Dáil Éireann in January 1919, though thirty-three imprisoned republicans were unable to take their seats. The Dáil would become the government under which the Irish War of Independence was fought, from 1919 to 1922. This would ultimately bring about the creation of the Irish Free State as a British dominion in 1922.