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11/04/19 Cathaoirleach launches Centenary Commemoration of historic meeting of First Dáil

centenary of first dail 1

Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council Cllr. Seamus O’Domhnaill with Cllr. Gerry McMonagle, Cllr. Martin Harley and Donegal County Council Cultural Services staff Judith McCarthy, Donegal County Museum, Niamh Brennan, Donegal County Archives, Caroline Carr, Donegal County Museum, Donna Cavanagh, Donegal County Library and Una Mathewson, Donegal County Library at a special commemorative event in the County House, Lifford on Wednesday 10 April 2019 to mark the first sitting of the Dáil.  


As part of Donegal County Council’s Decade of Centenaries Programme, Donegal County Council has marked the first sitting of the First Dáil, on 21st January 1919 at a special event in the County House Lifford yesterday afternoon (Wednesday 10 April 2019).


Among the new TDs elected in the 1918 General Election who sat that day on this extremely historic occasion were three men representing Co. Donegal.  Joseph O’Doherty, from Derry, was elected in North Donegal; Joseph Sweeney, the veteran of 1916, was elected in West Donegal; and Peter Joseph Ward succeeded in obtaining a seat in South Donegal. Edward J. Kelly was also successful in the general election but chose to represent his East Donegal constituency in Westminster.


Launching the project yesterday, An Cathaoirleach, Cllr Seamus Ó Domhnaill stated that “this event is about celebrating the centenary of our democracy, on this the 100th anniversary of the second meeting of the First Dáil on the 10th April 1919”.   He added “1918 was the first election in which many of Ireland’s poor could vote and the first general election in which women could vote.  With an electorate almost three times the size of that of the previous election of 1910, the majority of Irish people voted overwhelmingly for a political platform dedicated to  establish a constituent assembly comprising persons chosen by the Irish constituencies as the supreme national authority to speak and act in the name of the Irish people”.


Twenty-seven TDs attended the inaugural meeting of the Dáil and among them were the three Donegal TDs. At their meeting on the 21st of January 1919, the First Dáil Éireann ratified four documents. The ideals invoked on that day were of national self-determination, of republican equality and of the sovereignty of the people.  The First Dáil also issued a ‘Message to the Free Nations of the World’, declaring that the new republic, ‘believes in freedom and justice as the fundamental principles of international law’. The Cathaoirleach stated that “this message is as relevant today as it was 100 years ago.”


Peter Joseph Ward

Peter Joseph Ward, grandson of Peter Joseph Ward, who represented Donegal in the First Dáil following the 1918 elections along with John Carlin Raphoe at a special commemorative event in the County House, Lifford on Wednesday 10 April 2019 to mark the first sitting of the Dáil.  


Peter Joseph Ward went on to be both an elected representative with Donegal County Council and its Chairman from 1921 to 1922 and was involved in the War of Independence. Joseph Sweeney from Burtonport had fought in the GPO on Easter Week 1916.  He also fought in the War of Independence and went on to be Chief of Staff of the Army.   Joseph O’Doherty had been involved in planning for the 1916 Rising and spent time in prison in Wales as a result. He too fought in the War of Independence. Edward Joseph Kelly chose to serve East Donegal as an MP in the House of Commons and retired on the establishment of the Free State in 1922.  More information on the men can be found in the Donegal County Archives publication entitled ‘Donegal, the 1918 General Election and the First Dáil’ which is available here.


Yesterday's event, which was attended by relatives of those elected to the First Dáil as well as elected members of Donegal County Council, also heard from local historian Anthony Begley.  Anthony Begley is a former post-primary school principal and history teacher in Ballyshannon and has been associated for over 40 years with County Donegal Historical Society.  As a former President and Curator of the County Donegal Historical Society Museum, he frequently contributes articles to the Donegal Annual and has published 6 books on the Ballyshannon/Bundoran area and frequently gives walks and talks on local history.  


Those attending received copies of the booklet entitled ‘Donegal, the 1918 General Election and the First Dáil’ and had an opportunity to view the Donegal County Museum exhibition also entitled ‘Donegal, the 1918 General Election and the First Dáil’ which was installed in the County House Lifford for the occasion.


The booklet Donegal, the 1918 General Election and the First Dáil/ Dún na nGall, Olltoghchán 1918 agus an Chéad Dáil  can be found here.


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