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Neither democratic nor a programme: the Democratic Programme of 1919

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 July 2016

Emmet O’Connor*
Affiliation:
Ulster University
*
*School of English and History, Ulster University, pej.oconnor@ulster.ac.uk
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Abstract

On 21 January 1919, the first Dáil adopted four constitutional documents, the best known of which is the Democratic Programme, a statement of social values, based on proposals from the Labour Party. The Programme is usually regarded as a cynical reward to Labour for its abstention from the 1918 general election, and nationalist elites have frequently been criticised for reneging on it. This paper will argue that the Programme was written to advance the Irish cause at the International Socialist Conference at Berne in February 1919, that parts of the Programme were implemented, and that it is very likely that the Labour Party did not write it to be implemented.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© Irish Historical Studies Publications Ltd 

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References

1 Farrell, Brian, The founding of Dáil Éireann: parliament and nation-building (Dublin, 1971), p. 51Google Scholar. The Labour Party was officially known as the Irish Trade Union Congress and Labour Party from 1914, and the Labour Party and Trade Union Congress from November 1918 to 1930. To minimise confusion, the trade union wing of the movement will be referred to throughout as the Irish Trade Union Congress or ‘Congress’. By ‘Labour’ is meant the Labour Party or trade unions or related political groups, depending on the context. Workers are otherwise referred to as ‘labour’.

2 Technically, this was true of the second Dáil, but it is reasonable to assume that the film was not distinguishing between the first and second Dáil, to which almost all Sinn Féin deputies were returned unopposed.

3 The programme opens: ‘All successful revolutions depend on popular support. In the general election of December 1918 we, the Irish people, said yes to the pursuit of the republic … In return for the support it received, Sinn Féin made certain promises. The Democratic Programme … promised to Irish people that things would get a lot better: that their welfare would be a number one priority. Not only would this not happen, for many Irish men, women, and children, life would get worse.’

4 Laffan, Michael, The resurrection of Ireland: the Sinn Féin party, 1916–1923 (Cambridge, 1999), p. 259CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

5 O’Connor Lysaght, D. R., ‘Labour must wait: the making of a myth’ in Saothar, xxvi (2001), pp 6165Google Scholar.

6 Irish Times, 31 Jan. 1944; for Ó Ceallaigh’s recollections, see Seanad Éireann deb.,xxviii, 243–4 (25 Nov. 1943), and his memoir quoted in Farrell, Founding of Dáil Éireann, pp 59–60.

7 Farrell, Founding of Dáil Éireann, pp 56–62; Mitchell, Arthur, Labour in Irish politics, 1890–1930: the Irish Labour movement in an age of revolution (Dublin, 1974), pp 107112Google Scholar; Cathasaigh, Aindrias Ó, ‘Getting with the programme: Labour, the Dáil and the Democratic Programme of 1919’, in Red banner, xxxv (2009), pp 2435Google Scholar.

8 Skeffington, Andrée Sheehy, Skeff: the life of Owen Sheehy Skeffington 1909–1970 (Dublin, 1991), p. 228Google Scholar.

9 Opinion varies on the significance of the re-draft. One of the first textual analyses, Lynch, Patrick, ‘The social revolution that never was’ in Desmond Williams (ed.), The Irish struggle, 1916–1926 (London, 1966), pp 4154Google Scholar, plays down the difference between the drafts, whereas one of the most recent, Ó Cathasaigh, ‘Getting with the programme’, p. 30, argues that ‘most of the good had been hollowed out’ of the Labour draft.

10 Cork Workers’ Club, Irish Labour and its international relations: in the era of the Second International and the Bolshevik revolution (Historical Reprints, no.13, no date), p. 17.

11 O’Connor, Emmet, ‘True Bolsheviks? The rise and fall of the Socialist Party of Ireland, 1917–21’, in D. George Boyce and Alan O’Day (eds), Ireland in transition, 1867–1921 (London, 2004), pp 209222Google Scholar.

12 Cork Workers’ Club, Irish Labour and its international relations, pp 37–8.

13 Ibid., pp 18–27.

14 Irish Labour Party and Trade Union Congress national executive minute book, 1917–21, minutes 9 Sept. 1918 (Irish Labour History Society Archive, Dublin).

15 Irish Labour Party and Trade Union Congress, Report of a special conference, 1918, p. 116 (University of Ulster, Magee College (U.U.M.C.)).

16 Irish Labour Party and Trade Union Congress, Report of a special conference, 1918, p. 119 (U.U.M.C.).

17 Farrell, Founding of Dáil Éireann, p. 58.

18 Morrissey, Thomas J., S.J., , A man called Hughes: the life and times of Seamus Hughes, 1881–1943 (Dublin, 1991), pp 101Google Scholar, 363, fn.80.

19 Cork Workers’ Club, Irish Labour and its international relations, p. 27.

20 Irish News, 19 Nov. 1917; Irish Opinion, 15 Dec. 1917.

21 Dublin trades council minutes, 11 Mar. 1918 (U.U.M.C.).

22 Irish Times, 21 Jan. 1969.

23 Coogan, Tim Pat, Ireland since the rising (London, 1966), p. 26Google Scholar.

24 Cited in Farrell, Founding of Dáil Éireann, pp 57–8.

25 Ó Cathasaigh, ‘Getting with the programme’, p. 26.

26 Farrell, Founding of Dáil Éireann, pp 56–8; Morrissey, A man called Hughes, p. 101; Morrissey, Thomas J., S.J., , William O’Brien, 1881–1968: socialist, republican, Dáil deputy, editor and trade union leader (Dublin, 2007), p. 162Google Scholar.

27 Cited in Farrell, Founding of Dáil Éireann, p. 57.

28 Morrissey, A man called Hughes, p. 101.

29 Seanad Éireann deb.,xxviii, 243–4 , (25 Nov. 1943).

30 An excerpt from the unpublished memoir is quoted in Farrell, Founding of Dáil Éireann, pp 59–60.

31 Irish Times, 31 Jan. 1 Feb. 1944; supplement, 21 Jan. 1969.

32 O’Hegarty, P. S., A history of Ireland under the Union (London, 1952), p. 727Google Scholar; Irish Times, 21 Jan. 1919.

33 Interview with James Ryan, Irish Times, 16 Mar. 1967.

34 Farrell, Founding of Dáil Éireann, p. 60.

35 Irish Times, 1 Feb. 1944.

36 Interview with James Ryan, Irish Times, 16 Mar. 1967.

37 Irish Times, 21 Jan. 1969.

38 ‘Irish nationalists seized on the popular view of the workhouse system as an alien imposition unsuited to Irish culture and society to argue that there would be no need for workhouses in a home rule Ireland’: Virginia Crossman, ‘The poor law in Ireland, 1838–1948’, http://www.history.ac.uk/ihr/Focus/welfare/articles/crossmanv.html, accessed 7 Aug. 2014. See also Crossman, Virginia, Poverty and the poor law in Ireland, 1850–1914 (Liverpool, 2013), pp 2, 6465Google Scholar.

39 Coogan, Ireland since the rising, p. 25.

40 Greaves, C. Desmond, Liam Mellows and the Irish revolution (London, 1971), p. 170Google Scholar; Irish Times, 21 Jan. 1969.

41 Cited in Ó Cathasaigh, ‘Getting with the programme’, p. 30.

42 Miontuairiscí an Chéad Dála, 1919–21 [Minutes of proceedings of the first parliament of the Republic of Ireland 1919–1921: official record] (Dublin, 1994), p. 24.

43 Gaughan, J. Anthony, Thomas Johnson, 1872–1963: first leader of the Labour Party in Dáil Éireann (Dublin, 1980), p. 157Google Scholar; Irish Times, 2 Feb. 1944.

44 Morrissey, A man called Hughes, p. 101.

45 Gaughan, Thomas Johnson, p. 160.

46 Mitchell, Labour in Irish politics, pp 110–12; Gaughan, Thomas Johnson, p. 161.

47 See Schneider, Fred D., ‘British Labour and Ireland, 1918–1921: the retreat to Houndsditch’, Review of Politics, xl, no. 3 (July 1978), pp 368391CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For examples of the pressure placed on British Labour’s position by international conferences see remarks by J. R. Clynes, party leader, 1921–2, Hansard 5 (Commons), cxi, 1505–06 (3 Apr.1919); Party, Labour, The International at Lucerne: the resolutions, the provisional constitution (London, 1919)Google Scholar; Shaw, Bernard, The Labour Party: Irish nationalism and Labour internationalism (London, 1920)Google Scholar.

48 New Ireland, 22 Feb.1919.

49 Gaughan, Thomas Johnson, p. 162.

50 Irish Labour Party and Trade Union Congress, Thirtieth annual report, 1924, pp 120–1 (U.U.M.C.).

51 Gaughan, Thomas Johnson, p. 163.

52 O’Connor, Emmet, Reds and the Green: Ireland, Russia, and the Communist Internationals (Dublin, 2004), pp 2629Google Scholar.

53 Irish Labour Party and Trade Union Congress, Official report of the twenty-seventh annual meeting, 1921, pp 39–46 (U.U.M.C.).

54 Cited in Ó Cathasaigh, ‘Getting with the programme’, p. 31.

55 Cited in Ó Cathasaigh, ‘Getting with the programme’, p. 32; Greaves, Liam Mellows and the Irish revolution, p. 176.

56 The range of views in Sinn Féin on social and economic questions is synopsised in Mitchell, Arthur, Revolutionary government in Ireland: Dáil Éireann, 1919–22 (Dublin, 1995), pp 4350Google Scholar.

57 ‘The Ministry of Labour in the first Dáil’ in Saothar: iris ráithiúil na Roinne Saothair, iii (spring, 1969), pp 1–3.

58 Mitchell, Revolutionary government in Ireland, pp 48–50.

59 Gaughan, Thomas Johnson, pp 157–8.

60 See Phelan, Edward, Edward Phelan and the I.L.O.: The life and views of an international social actor (Geneva, 2009), p. 25Google Scholar.

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