Deputy Martin Kenny
Sinn Féin TD, Martin Kenny writes on the 100th anniversary of the first Dáil, outlining the Republican vision of those who established an all-Ireland parliament in 1919. He says that many of the problems faced by the people of Ireland a hundred years ago have not been solved and are an indictment of successive governments since then.
There is no doubt that the election of 1918 was a great victory for Sinn Féin, winning 73 out of 105 seats in the 32-counties. The vote was correctly seen as a vote for independence and for the Irish Republic.
Of course, the election here in Ireland took place as part of the British general election in 1918. The Republican TDs, naturally, abstained from Westminster and established their all-Ireland parliament, Dáil Eireann, here in the Mansion House, in Dublin. This was the foundation of democracy in this country with the members of the Dáil declaring independence from Britain and seeking international recognition of the Irish Republic.
Our own Constance Markievecz was the first woman elected to the British parliament and was a proud absentionist who stood with the Republic.
This was the first election in which women over the age of 30 would vote and all men over the age of 21. Before this, women and most working men were not allowed to vote. It was under this revolutionary government that our War of Independence was fought.
The Democratic Programme of the first Dáil remains one of the most visionary and progressive blueprints for the birth of a nation, which unfortunately, has yet to be born.
It is one of the great tragedies of our nation that, after the valiant struggle and sacrifice of the War of Independence, what was achieved was not a united, democratic republic, but instead, partition was imposed on our people.
This brought two conservative states and economies into being on this island. On the both sides of the border, the interests of two privileged elites were served. They prospered while the people were abandoned to emigration, religious oppression, hardship and poverty.
Inequality was the order of the day in the two states and that partition served to divide the republican movement and its working class allies to this day. That is the legacy of partition and the ordinary working people who Sinn Féin represents are still suffering for it.
The realities of today
There was a time when having a job was the way out of poverty, but that is no longer the case, with low wage, precarious employment being the order of the day for the people of Ireland. We live in a state in which , far from the objectives of the Democratic Programme of 1919, children are poor and homeless, educationally deprived and denied the healthcare they need to grow up healthy and strong and able to contribute to the life of the nation.
The landlord class and their allies in government and Fianna Fáil have again got power to exploit at will and are rewarded with tax concessions while people are evicted from the homes, even by masked thugs using violence.
There is an economy based on inequality and a precarious economic system, which has scant regard for the well-being of citizens or for the precious environment which our forebearers cherished and conserved for us.
Now, faced with the crisis of Brexit and the possibility of a strengthening of the division of our nation, our people are reminded, if they ever needed to be, that the British do not care one jot about Ireland or her people.
Dancing to the tune of the unionist, right-wing DUP, the British Tories will never work for the good of Ireland in the midst of their misguided Brexit plans.
Brexit is worrying people living here in the border counties and making them look to the alternative of a united Ireland as a solution to this disaster being imposed by the British on our island.
Sinn Féin leadership of 2019 is as determined to achieve the objectives of the first Dáil as those who gathered in the Round Room of the Mansion House 100 years ago. The party is focussed on becoming the biggest party on this island, acting as the major catalyst for political, economic and social progress with a united vision of a new Ireland which will leave the divisions and injustices of the past behind in favour of a modern, egalitarian, inclusive Ireland where there is room for everyone.
We face many challenges ahead as we write the final chapter in Irish unity as our long walk to freedom continues.