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The General Election of 1918

Attempts to reach agreement on the introduction of Home Rule failed and an exhausted and weakened John Redmond died on 6th March 1918. However, his long service to Waterford City and its people was not forgotten and brought about a divided Waterford in the 1918 General Elections. Following the death of John Redmond, a by-election for Waterford City was held on 22nd March 1918. Captain William Redmond, son of John Redmond, was the Irish Parliamentary Party candidate and Dr. Vincent White was the Sinn Féin candidate. Sinn Féin held a public meeting on 11th March on the Mall and the opposing Redmond supporters turned out in force to interrupt the speeches with shouting, singing and stone throwing. The police had to intervene.

The Irish Parliament Party held a monster meeting in Ballybricken just prior to the arrival of Captain Redmond on 14th March to huge support. He was paraded through the City to Ballybricken where the Mayor declared that Ballybricken would support his candidacy. According to the Freeman’s Journal of 15th March 1918 the procession of supporters was nearly two miles long. During the campaign extra police and troops had to be stationed in Waterford to deal with the outbreaks of violence between the opposing factions. De Valera was attacked while campaigning for Dr. White. On polling day on 22nd March Irish Volunteers and Redmond supporters were stationed at the polling stations. Dr. Vincent White, the Sinn Féin candidate, was struck on the head by a Redmond supporter and when he later went to vote himself the Royal Irish Constabulary had to clear a path through the mob to enable him to get through and vote.

The Irish Volunteers paraded to Volunteer Hall and were met with a large group of Redmond supporters and only with the intervention of de Valera and an assurance that the Volunteers would leave Waterford the following morning was the crowd dispersed.

Captain William Redmond defeated Dr. Vincent White in the by-election but the campaigns began anew shortly afterwards when the General Election was called. The government decided to introduce conscription into Ireland which was hugely unpopular. The Irish Parliamentary Party which had for so often called for men to join up were opposed to the Bill and on 17th April 1918 a cross party nationalist party meeting at the Mansion House condemned the Bill. The threat of conscription boosted support for Sinn Féin.

Waterford in 1918 was divided into 2 constituencies – Waterford County and Waterford City - having previously been 3 constituencies. Universal suffrage had been introduced in 1918, which meant the franchise was extended and for the first time women over 30 could vote. Rosamund Jacob and the Cumann na mBan members in Waterford urged women to vote for Sinn Féin. Polling was set for 14th December 1918.

In Dungarvan, P.C. O’Mahony, who lost his job in the Post Office due to his republican activities, became an organiser for Sinn Féin. Cathal Brugha was the Sinn Féin candidate and the sitting MP J.J. O’Shee was the Irish Parliamentary Party candidate. Sinn Féin and Cathal Brugha had widespread support in Waterford County and Cathal Brugha was successfully elected for Waterford County.

In the City a replay of the 1917 by-election was held with Dr. Vincent White the Sinn Féin candidate against the Irish Parliamentary Party candidate Captain William Redmond. Again, there were violent clashes between the Irish volunteers and Redmond’s supporters. Polling stations were scenes of violence on the day and the Volunteer Hall was attacked by Redmond’s supporters. Although Dr. White greatly increased the Sinn Féin vote on this occasion he was still beaten by Captain Redmond, whose supporters conveyed him from the Courthouse to Ballybricken where they burned an effigy of Dr. White.

The newly elected Sinn Féin MPs met in the Mansion House as Dáil Éireann on 21st January 1919. Captain Redmond was invited but did not attend. The other Waterford MP Cathal Brugha was elected President of the Dáil in the absence of the leader of Sinn Féin, Eamon de Valera who was in prison at the time. At this first meeting of Dáil Éireann the Nation of Ireland proclaimed her Independence:

"To the Nations of the World! Greetings!" The Nation of Ireland having proclaimed her national independence, calls through her elected representatives in Parliament assembled in the Irish Capital on January 21st, 1919, upon every free nation to support the Irish Republic by recognising Ireland's national status and her right to its vindication at the Peace Congress.

Nationally, the race, the language the customs and traditions of Ireland are radically distinct from the English, Ireland is one of the most ancient nations in Europe, and she has preserved her national integrity, vigorous and intact, through seven centuries of foreign oppression: she has never relinquished her national rights, and throughout the long era of English usurpation she has in every generation defiantly proclaimed her inalienable right of nationhood down to her last glorious resort to arms in 1916.

Internationally, Ireland is the gateway of the Atlantic. Ireland is the last outpost of Europe towards the West: Ireland is the point upon which great trade routes between East and West converge: her independence is demanded by the Freedom of the Seas: her great harbours must be open to all nations, instead of being the monopoly of England. To-day these harbours are empty and idle solely because English policy is determined to retain Ireland as a barren bulwark for English aggrandisement, and the unique geographical position of this island, far from being a benefit and safeguard to Europe and America, is subjected to the purposes of England's policy of world domination.

Ireland today reasserts her historic nationhood the more confidently before the new world emerging from the War. because she believes in freedom and justice as the fundamental principles of international law, because she believes in a frank co-operation between the peoples for equal rights against the vested privileges of ancient tyrannies, because the permanent peace of Europe can never be secured by perpetuating military dominion for the profit of empire but only by establishing the control of government in every land upon the basis of the free will of a free people, and the existing state of war, between Ireland and England, can never be ended until Ireland is definitely evacuated by the armed forces of England.

For these among other reasons, Ireland—resolutely and irrevocably determined at the dawn of the promised era of self-determination and liberty that she will suffer foreign dominion no longer—calls upon every free nation to uphold her national claim to complete independence as an Irish Republic against the arrogant pretensions of England founded in fraud and sustained only by an overwhelming military occupation, and demands to be confronted publicly with England at the Congress of the Nations, in order that the civilised world having judged between English wrong and Irish right may guarantee to Ireland its permanent support for the maintenance of her national independence.