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One Map, Two Irelands. Map of the Irish Republic Showing Result of General Election, Dec., 1918

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  • Title: Map of the Irish Republic Showing Result of General Election, Dec., 1918
  • Author: Women's Irish Education League
  • Date: c. 1918
  • Medium: Chromolithograph
  • Condition: Age toned, mild creasing at old folds, two minute separations at folds.  Very good.
  • Inches:  13.5 x 11 inches
  • Centimeters:   34.3 x 28
  • Product ID: 308118

In April 1916, a group of Irish Republicans calling themselves the "Provisional Government of the Irish Republic" published a declaration of Ireland's independence from the United Kingdom, marking the beginning of the bloody "Easter Rising." The critical language from that declaration appears at the lower right of the map. The brutal suppression of the Rising and the execution of most of its leaders by the British led to greater support for independence, and particularly for the Republican Sinn Féin party.

This map demonstrates the overwhelming support for independence among Irish voters two years later, in the U.K. parliamentary General Election of December 1918. Of the 105 seats at issue in Ireland, 79 went to candidates "For the Irish Republic and Self-Determination" (73 of them members of Sinn Féin), while only 26 of those elected stood "For Status Quo" (the Unionists in Northern Ireland). The choice of colors - green for independence, orange for the status quo - makes the message clear. In case there were any question, a legend on the map asks, "CAN ANY OTHER COUNTRY SHOW SUCH UNANIMITY ON ANY IMPORTANT QUESTION?" The successful Sinn Féin candidates did not take their seats in the U.K. Parliament, choosing instead to convene in Dublin and declare themselves Dáil Éireann, the parliament of a newly-independent Ireland, leading to the War of Independence (1919-21).

The map was published in San Francisco by a large Irish American group supporting independence, the Women’s Irish Education League.   This group was originally organized shortly before the Rising and raised a Relief Fund to help Irish Republicans who were suffering in its aftermath. The Women’s League remained active throughout the War of Independence, working tirelssly to support the newly declared Irish Republic.

Belfast, 30 December 1918 - Ireland has voted – and the result, while not surprising, is sensational.    The Irish Parliamentary Party, the political standard-bearers for Irish nationalism for almost half a century, has been all but destroyed.   The party of Butt, Parnell and Redmond and has been reduced to just seven MPs (one of these in Britain) under the leadership of John Dillon, a veteran of the constitutional movement, who himself was unseated in the constituency of East Mayo.

Mr Dillon was ousted by Éamon de Valera, currently imprisoned in Lincoln jail, whose Sinn Féin party now claims 73 seats in a Westminster parliament it has vowed to never attend.

The final breakdown of the 105 Irish seats is as follows:

  • Sinn Féin 73
  • Irish Party 6
  • Unionists 26

The victory of Sinn Féin was no surprise. Pre-election retirements from the Irish Party and a failure to replace them with new candidates meant that 25 of the seats claimed yesterday were unopposed.  However, where contests between Sinn Féin and the Irish Party did take place, the swing towards separatist sentiment was undeniable.

Given the general trend, it was the few successes of the Irish Party that stand out. In Belfast Joseph Devlin held off the challenge of Éamon de Valera, who won two of the three constituencies he contested. The only constituency outside Ulster in which the IPP prevailed over a Sinn Féin candidate was Waterford City, where Captain William Redmond, son of the late party leader, defeated Dr Vincent White. With over 9,000 votes cast, Capt. Redmond had just 484 to spare.

In a telegram from Belfast, Mr. Devlin told Capt. Redmond that the result in Waterford City had been a ‘vindication of your father’s memory and principles for which he fought and died’.

After the results were announced, there was some trouble in Waterford when supporters of Redmond held a torchlight procession and attended a meeting at which the returned MP addressed them. However, in the course of the procession, windows of Sinn Féin supporters were broken, and an effigy of Dr White was burned. 

The other four seats won by the Irish Party were in Ulster constituencies where a pre-election pact had been brokered by Cardinal Logue to avoid a split national vote where seats might fall to unionism.  Overall, unionists won 26 seats, almost all in the north-east corner of the country. 

The count of the nine Belfast divisions began at noon on 28 December at City Hall, where a large staff under the direction of the High Sheriff, R.M. Gaffikin, and the Under Sheriff, James Quail, worked their way through the counting of ballot papers.  Most of the candidates were also in attendance, but a notable absentee was Sir Edward Carson who, owing to a severe cold, remained at the home of Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon in Larne.

If his absence was source of disappointment to those unionists gathered at the count centre, the results from Belfast were not. In the constituency of Duncairn, Carson stormed to victory with a majority of more than 9,000 votes. 

The election result shows that Ireland is as polarised now as it was on the eve of the war, if not more so. A strengthened unionism and an emboldened Irish republicanism have emerged from this historic election - and the aspirations of the two are antagonistic.

[Author's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]

References:  Raidió Teilifís Éireann, Ireland's National Public Service Media, Courtesy of Boston College (www.rte.ie/centuryireland).  Cornell University Library, digital.library.cornell.edu/catalog/ss:19343221.  Accessed 2-25-2023.