Category Archives: National

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 14 November 2019

1023a. Front Cover of Championing Cork, Cork Chamber of Commerc



Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 14 November 2019

Kieran’s New Book, Championing Cork, Cork Chamber of Commerce, 1819-2019


     Championing Cork, Cork Chamber of Commerce, 1819-2019 is my new book and has been funded and published by the Chamber of Commerce. Established in 1819 the Chamber has consistently led a mission to be the leading business organisation in the Cork region. For two hundred years, it has committed itself to ensure the city and region’s prosperity, vibrancy and competitiveness through sustainable development. Researching the history of the institution through the rich archival material that has survived, every broad period of growth and decline has empowered the institution to carry on to challenge and resolve the issues of the day. The contribution has been immense.

    Circa 1819, the Committee of Directors of the Cork Commercial Buildings Company made a rule banning campaigning on political or religious matters and possibly Catholic Emancipation. This displeased many of the subscribers who left and formed the Cork Chamber of Commerce. On 8 November 1819 a meeting of subscribers of the new chamber met at Mr Shinkwin’s Rooms (later the site of the Victoria Hotel on St Patrick’s Street) to discuss the rules of governance, to be based on “liberal principles”. The meeting was chaired by Mr Murphy while Mr Alex McCarthy presided at the inaugural General Meeting of 13 November.

    Established in an economic decline and as a champion of Catholic Emancipation, the Chamber emerged not only to provide a physical space where its members could come and read the up todate news of the day and plan for the future, but also to challenge the status quo. It grew rapidly from 1819 to the Great Famine years campaigning for more rights for the Catholic merchant middle class and more investment opportunities.

   Post the Irish Great Famine, the economic decline that followed led to the emergence of new forms of party politics being connected with the Chamber. The quest for Home Rule and the Irish National Land League campaign split the membership in the 1880s with the Incorporated Chamber of Commerce and Shipping appearing on the commercial landscape of the city. The city now had two chambers that pursued issues such as the need for better and quicker transport modes and more business education. Both of these core issues led the Chambers to the era of the First World War, where once again economic decline ensued. There was a distinct shortage of labour as many Irish labourers went out to fight the war. Following this the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil war disrupted business. It was only in the late 1920s that the two Chambers reframed their strategies to push the future of the Irish Free State. Growth for over a decade through industries such as Fords and Dunlops and reclamation projects such as Tivoli industrial area were again stifled by the advent of war – this time the Second World War.

    Cork in the decades of the 1950s and 1960s was a regional powerhouse in Ireland as Haulbowline Steel Mills, ESB projects such as the Lee Hydroelectric Scheme and Marina Steam plant came into being followed in quick succession by Verolme Dockyard, Whitegate Oil Refinery, Cork Airport, and a new Regional Technical College. The decade of the 1980s brought economic decline again and the Chamber once again shifted its focus on strengthening the supports for local business into the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. The creation of a full time Chamber executive team with creative thinking capacities provided platforms to think about the future of Cork as Ireland’s southern capital and region.

    This book draws on the Chamber’s archives in Cork City and County Archives and from its press coverage over two hundred years. It highlights the big stories of the chamber’s past but also the subtler elements – the conversations, speeches, the messages, the creativity, the elements of empowerment – the intangible pulses, which drive an institution forward. The book presents six chronological chapters, whose headings are meant to connect with the present-day strategic aims of the Cork Chamber. The chapters help showcase how much lobbying work the Chamber has covered, the topics that have come up over and over again, and the ones, which form the foundation of the ongoing elements of the Chamber’s forward-looking vision.

    Chapters two to seven map out the variety of campaigns across three centuries – from the early nineteenth century to the 21st century. Chapter two, entitled Setting the Scene, outlines the context to the establishment of the organisation and the first sixty years. Chapter three entitled Transforming Cork relates a multitude of campaigns to transform Cork physically especially its infrastructure. Chapter four entitled A Vision of a Region highlights a number of core events, which for the Chamber were a key part in setting out a vision for Cork in the future. Chapter five entitled Empowering You maps out many of the campaigns the Chamber engaged in to enable social change. Chapter six, entitled Supporting Business showcases several of the initiatives to help businesses in Cork City and the wider Region. Chapter Seven, Plans for a New Millennium, details projects completed and ongoing in the early 21st Century City and Region and beyond.

Championing Cork, Cork Chamber of Commerce, 1819-2019 is available from any good Cork bookshop or through the Cork Chamber of Commerce.



1023a. Front cover of Championing Cork, Cork Chamber of Commerce, 1819-2019 by Kieran McCarthy and published by the Cork Chamber of Commerce.

1023b. St Patrick’s Street, during the recent Cork Jazz Festival (picture: Kieran McCarthy)

1023b. St Patrick’s Street, during the recent Cork Jazz Festival

Kieran’s Speech, Launch of New book, Championing Cork: Cork Chamber of Commerce, 1819-2019

1023a. Front Cover of Championing Cork, Cork Chamber of Commerc

That Sense of Cork

Championing Cork: Cork Chamber of Cork, 1819-2019

 Speech, Cllr Kieran McCarthy

Friday 8 November 2019


An Tanáiste, Dear distinguished guests, Dear ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for the opportunity to speak here this evening at such an important occasion. This book took 18 months – a year and a half – to compile, piece together and publish, and all of its roads led to this evening – the actual 200th anniversary date of the Chamber being established.

Eighteen months though is only a very small proportion of time of the 200 years of the Chamber’s history. But for me and all behind this book, this publication celebrates the nature, essence, energy, character and the power of knowledge and marks a group who came together and continue to champion Ireland’s southern capital and region. So for me this book is not just a history book but a toolkit where a cross section of a multitude of moves by the Chamber over the 200 years are documented and mapped.

Two hundred ago today, on a wintry evening a small group of gentlemen- not over a dozen in number – met at Shinkwin’s Rooms on St Patrick’s Street – a small two storey building not overly developed. Minutes were kept, a chair appointed and the rules of the new organisation were set out as their winter meetings progressed.

We are very lucky that those original minute books and 98 per cent of the minute books survive and are now minded in Cork City and County Archives as well as a vast majority of the minutes were written up in local newspapers such as the Cork Examiner. The Cork Examiner in our time is now completely digitised and completely readable online going back to 1841.

On the 8 November 1819, some of the merchants of the city were aware of the need for a Chamber. Dublin and Waterford already had their chamber for many years. The first members of the Cork Chamber don’t jump out of Cork history as highly recognisable figures. But they do come across though as people who cared about the city and region, as hard sloggers, and that they were acutely aware of the challenges of their time and of the acquisition of knowledge to resolve such challenges.

Policy papers didn’t get published straight away – their first forays into galvanising support was through hosting networking dinners, setting up a reading room where all the weekly newspapers of the day could be read, honouring notable Cork emigrants abroad such as Daniel Florence O’Leary, an aide de Camp in Simon Bolivar’s government in South America, honouring the Catholic Emancipator Daniel O’Connell and his diplomatic work in Westminster, and interviewing prospective candidates for membership of Westminster and asking them what their policies were.

So what has changed from those first policies- the dinners are ongoing, the Chamber still honours Corkmen abroad interestingly the Columbian Ambassador recently unveiled an info panel to Daniel Florence O’Leary at Elizabeth Fort recently. The chamber still asks questions of this city’s politicians of what are your policies- and our senior politicians now pass on questions to present day Westminster candidates.

Indeed probably the only aspect that has changed since those early policies is the ability to read 20 newspapers for free in one place– but one can argue that aspect that has been replaced by the glossy and always thought provoking Chamber Link, which always faces the viewer in every corner of the Chamber’s Summerhill North residences.


Awareness and The Power of Place:

I like to think that those members who signed up on the 8 November and in subsequent weeks were aware of their city, walked its streets, had ideas on where Cork needed to go. That their awareness had many facets.

  • They were aware of Cork’s economic position in Atlantic Europe, not just in Ireland, aware of competitiveness within that space – from Spain through France through the UK and through Ireland.

  • They were aware of its physical position in the middle of a marshland with a river – and from this the hard work required in reclaiming land on a swampland. I like to think they saw and reflected upon the multitudes of timber trunks being hand driven into the ground to create foundational material for the city’s array of different architectural styles.

  • They were aware of its place with an Empire, the relationship with Britain with barracks high upon a hill and across the County, and forts within the harbour area.

  • They were aware of the importance of its deep and sheltered Cork harbour for shipping.

  • They were aware of the shouts of dockers and noise from dropping anchors- the sea water causing masts to creak, and the hulls of timber ships knocking against its wall, as if to say, we are here, and the multitudes of informal international conversations happening just at the edge of a small city centre.

  • And they were aware of much unemployment and economic decline following the end of the Napoleonic Wars.

The Power of Vision:

Within this framework of awareness, the new Chamber of Commerce etched out its own vision, which aimed to provide one of the voices in economic development highlight business and provide a networking platform. The process was slow at the start but gathered momentum in accordance with the enthusiasm and energy of its members in getting things done.

The Chamber though was one of several other voices two hundred years ago who also had a vision for Cork plus were responsible in creating the foundations of our modern city and region. They set threads of thought, which the Chamber followed in time.

The early nineteenth century Corkonian had a rich vision for their city and region, much of which still resonates quite strongly in our present day and the Cork of the future.

The Cork Harbour Commissioners, founded in the 1810s created a new custom house complete with bonded warehouses, built enlarged docks spaces at Lapp’s Quay and pushed the extension of the docks eastwards, all of which set up our modern day North and South Docks.

Two hundred years ago the Cork Steam ship Company also came into being which harnessed the age of steam engines and influenced the adoption of this new technology in emerging breweries and distilleries in the city, as well as the creation of a more effective pumped water supply – and in a few short years steam was harnessed to create a commuter system of railways lines feeding into the city and out into the wider region.

The Wide Street Commission aimed to clean up slum ridden areas and dereliction in the city centre and create new and enhanced drainage systems– their greatest achievement was to plan for a new street, which opened in 1824 called Great George’s Street, which was later renamed Washington Street. Indeed, if one walks the older historic streets of the old medieval core such as South Main Street and North Main Street, one can see a form of rough red brick, which once you see it once you can see how much rebuilding was pursued c. 1820 to c.1830 and how much dereliction was cleared.

The inspection methods of the Cork Butter Market reigned supreme but also their vision to create new routeways for their customers from Kerry and Limerick – to become known as the Butter Roads.

The Grand Jury of Cork comprising local landlords and magistrates complimented this work by lobbying Westminster to give funding towards bridge construction across County Cork’s river valleys – such as the Lee, Bandon and Blackwater.

The knock-on effect of the improvement of roads and bridges led to new mail coach systems established in County Cork.

Reading the minute book of Cork Corporation meetings, one can see their continued investment into re-gravelling streetscapes, taking down and replacing of inadequate bridges, dealing with the decaying fabric of the eighteenth century city and investment into a proper water supply scheme.

The Cork Society of Arts emerged in the 1810s and asked for philanthropic support for artists and sculptors. They also welcomed the Antonia Canova Sculpture Casts to the city– the society, which was informal and small in its initial set-up – within a few short decades led to the creation of the Cork School of Art and a municipal art gallery.

Emerging artists adorned the city with the images of the Coat of Arms and also a branding strategy emerged to reflect its history – one can see passing remarks in travelogues two hundred years ago to Cork being one of the “Venices of the North” – of Northern Europe – a reference to a glory age of democracy in Europe plus a direct reference to canals in eighteenth century Cork, which were filled in the 1780s due to mass over silting. It’s not a strong branding platform but flickers every now and again in narratives about the city in the present day.

There also political visions to end the penal laws and enact Catholic Emancipation.

There were also visions to provide new residential spaces for the growing Roman Catholic middle class –Mini mansion in places such as Blackrock and Ballintemple came into being.

The Cork Chamber of Commerce was born in the midst of all these visions – some of the institutions I have described merged with other bodies as time went on- some were done away with economic decline – some survived and evolved into stronger institutions – but the themes I have described the small Chamber took on with gusto as the decades progressed –

– docklands development, the need to harness new technologies, the need for enhanced commuter belt transport,

 the need to mind and enhance the City’s appearance, the role of Cork Harbour in the city’s economic development, our relationship next to the UK,

networking and creating opportunities, diplomatic opportunity building, branding the city, breaking silos, working together – all define the core themes of the Chamber’s work over two hundred years.

– indeed in turning the pages of all the minute books over two hundred years – history repeats over and over again, some themes advanced and some themes have regressed but the Chamber and all its members through out the ages kept fighting for a better Cork – some times that road led forward, sometimes led back and sometimes it even split the membership – but in the overall scheme of 200 years – consistency of lobbying shines through.

The Power of People:

The minute books record names of people who stepped up to offer advice, to offer leadership and to lobby. Certainly reading between the lines of the minute books and chatting to members  today listening and cultivating action has been very important to the Chamber survival for two hundred years – plus to also to ignite people’s passion for their city and region plus harnessing the concept of their openness, their skillsets, and knowledge.

So this evening we also remember the people connected with the Chamber for over two hundred years. Sometimes history can be just reduced to dates and figures – so in this book you will notice it contains the quotes of past speeches by Presidents and even letters from the general public.

On the aspect of people, I have no doubt there were moments in the early days when the founder members held firm on why they established the Chamber. Tonight, we remember their tenacity and vision.

I have no doubt there have been moments where the Chamber suffered the blows of members who left for various reasons or who passed away. Tonight, we remember past members and not just that we rejoice in the skills and talents of the present members – from the 15 original members to the over 1,000 members now.

I have no doubt there have been moments in the multitudes of meetings where complex issues confounded and angered even the sharpest of members and later in time the Executive, but both members and the executive stood tall in the face of unfolding events. We remember all the past committee members and the executive for their dedication and vision.

I have no doubt that there have been moments in a break of a meeting – when a fellow member asked “is there anything wrong” to another member and a worry was shared -and in that quiet moment – the power of solidarity and friendship prevailed to soften the blows of life. We remember those guardians of empathy and the listening ear.

There have been moments when members knew that at a moment in time – they were the guardians of the city and region and the city’s DNA – an intangible quality of all things Cork – is also embedded into the members.

There have been moments whereby the Chief Executive and his staff felt they has changed something. In particular I would like to highlight the work of Michael Geary and Conor Healy for their respective visions.

Over the past two hundred years, there have been many moments, which this book aims to document. To be a guardian of Cork is no easy task as it filled with much ambition.

In my meetings this week, a member of the EU’s URBACT programme noted to me – you know Cork is all over our social media at the moment – there is so much happening in your city” – I replied – “yep, good, we’re not finished yet, you should see what else we are up to!”.

So tonight, we celebrate 200 years, we reflect on the two hundred years of its history and everyone associated with in the past, present and going forward.  We sincerely thank the Chamber for the journey they have taken the city and region on, and we think about the journey going forward.

My sincere thanks to Chamber 200 Committee and Paula Cogan and to Conor, Katherine, Imelda of the Chamber, Robin O’Sullivan, as well as the Chamber Executive or their consistent positivity, ongoing energy and charting a vision my thanks as well to Kieran in the Irish Examiner for help and assistance with the old photographs, to Brian Magee, the City Archivist, and Cliodhna in Coolgrey for her design and patience.

Thank you for listening to me.




Cork City Council Press Release – Cork City Boundary Officially Extends

Cork City Council Extenion Map, 31 May 2019

In a historic day for Cork City, tomorrow Friday, May 31 2019, the city will increase fivefold in size and will welcome 85,000 new residents.

Due to the first extension of the city boundary in over 50 years, Ballincollig, Glanmire, Douglas, Frankfield, Grange, Blarney, Tower and Whites Cross will become part of what is a ‘new city’.

From Friday, Cork, which is earmarked as the fastest growing city in the country under the National Planning Framework, will be home to over 210,000 people. It’s projected that the city’s population will continue to grow over the next 20 years reaching over 350,000 by 2040.

Over 400 public services will transfer to Cork City from the County as part of the expansion of the city. Up to 550 km of roads, 990 social housing homes, nine cemeteries and three libraries will become part of the new city.

Both Councils have been working together for several months to ensure a seamless transfer of services. Up to 134 staff have transferred to Cork City Council from Cork County Council including gardeners, school wardens, library staff, general operatives, tradespersons and firefighters. These staff will be operating at depots, parks, libraries and at emergency incidents across the city. A further 70 new posts are also being filled.

Lord Mayor, Cllr Mick Finn said: “As we welcome communities previously in County Cork to the city, we look forward to them bringing their expertise and experience with them. Tidy Towns organisations, community groups and services have transformed towns on the periphery of the city and enhanced the quality of life for residents. Joining that together with the fantastic community work undertaken by residents of the existing city will help inform the work of the newly elected Cork City Council”.

Chief Executive Ann Doherty said: “Cork is going through a period of unprecedented economic growth with up to half a billion euro of development underway or in planning in the city. The historic expansion of the city allows Cork City Council to plan for a city of sustainable urban growth and realise Cork’s potential as a city of scale. We looking forward to working with communities in the new city in the months ahead.”.

Notes to Editor:

Cork, like most cities worldwide, has a history of boundary extensions. The city was expanded in 1840, 1955 and 1965. In the last extension, areas like Model Farm Road, Fairhill, Ballyvolane, Glasheen, Wilton, Ballinlough and Blackrock village all became part of the extended city.

Interactive Map, Cork City Council Boundary Extension 2019

   On June 1, Cork City will grow to nearly five times its current size taking in areas including Douglas, Rochestown, Ballincollig, Blarney and Glanmire. As part of this planned expansion,  the population of the city will grow by 85,000 to 210,000.

   The increase in size of the City will allow Cork City Council to take a take a lead role in driving the growth of the city and metropolitan region – driving improvements in investment, public transport, infrastructure and housing.

   Staff at  Cork City Council  are working with Cork County Council to ensure that the transition of public services  is as efficient and as seamless as possible. With time, a bigger Cork City will also provide us with scope to further improve and expand our services to the public.

For queries in relation to the Cork City Boundary Extension, please email

  In addition Cork City Council is making  available an interactive online map which allows residents, businesses and communities to confirm whether you will be living and/or working in the soon-to be expanded Cork City.

  Users can insert their Eircode (please ensure  you use the correct Eircode format including a space between the first three and last four characters) or postal address to search for their property (use the down arrow to the left hand side of the search box to select Eircode or address search).

   The interactive map also shows you which ward or local electoral area (LEA) you will be voting in, in the upcoming local elections, the number of councillors to be elected in each LEA, and the population of each LEA.


Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 24 January 2019

981a. Archival documents on display in Cork City Museum showcasing the organisation of the first Dail Eireann in 1919

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 24 January 2019

Tales from 1919: Proceedings of the First Dáil Éireann


   Three minutes before the time announced for the beginning of the proceedings of the first Dáil Éireann on 21 January 1919 Count George Plunkett, attended by his colleagues entered the Round Room of the Mansion House, Dublin (continued from last week’s column). They proceeded to their seats. The audience rose and indulged in loud and prolonged cheering.

   A roll call of members, available from the Oireachtas archives, lists the Sinn Féin MPs in attendance: Seán T O’Kelly (College Green), P O’Maile (Connemara), J J Walsh (Cork City), Michael Collins (South Cork), Seán Hayes (West Cork), Eoin MacNeill (Derry City and National University), Joseph O’Doherty (North Donegal), Peter J Ward (South Donegal), Joe Sweeney (West Donegal), George Gavin Duffy (South Dublin), Philip Shanahan (Harbour Division Dublin), Richard Mulcahy, Clontarf, Dublin, Michael Staines (St Michan’s, Dublin), Alderman Tom Kelly (St Stephen’s Green, Dublin), Piaras Beasley (East Kerry), Dr John Crowley (North Mayo), Donal Buckley (North Kildare), Con Collins (West Limerick), J J O’Kelly (Louth County), Eamonn Duggan (South Meath), Kevin O’Higgins (Queen’s County), Count George Noble Plunkett (North Roscommon), Harry Boland (South Roscommon), James A Bourke, (Mid-Tipperary), P J Moloney (South Tipperary), Cathal Brugha (Waterford), Roger M Sweetman (North Wexford, Dr Jim Ryan (South Wexford), and Robert C Barton (West Wicklow).

   Journalists from papers such as the Cork Examiner and the Irish Independent jotted down the proceedings, which were passed by a press censor. On the motion of Count Plunkett, seconded by Mr P O’Maile, Mr Cathal Brugha was moved to the chair amidst much applause. He spoke about doing important work, “the most important work that had been done in Ireland since foreigners landed in that country”. Continuing he noted: “It is also a holy work. The people of Ireland have hope and trust in God, and for that reason they might humbly ask God to give them help in the work that they had undertaken”. He then asked Fr Michael O’Flanagan to give a blessing on their work.

   The Chairman then called the names of all the Irish Parliamentary representatives invited to assist the establishment of the Dáil Éireann. The Chairman highlighted that invitations had been sent to all persons elected for Irish constituencies in the December general election of 1918. There were no replies when the names of Unionist members were called and in the case of the Sinn Féin members in prison the answer “in gaol” was given”.

   Mr Seán T O’Kelly then proposed the adoption of a temporary constitution. He said this constitution was a very simple one; “all the members of the Dáil have already got it in their hands, it did not require any long advocacy of it from me. It is sufficient for the time being for the purpose which the Dáil holds in view, namely, to make a permanent Republic in Ireland”. Sean Hayes seconded the motion, which was unanimously carried. The Chairman read the Declaration of Independence to be endorsed by the Dáil. The declaration was read in English by Mr E J Duggan, and in French by Mr George Gavin Duffy. It was accepted by each MP present.

  On the motion of Mr O’Maillie and seconded by Dr Jim Ryan, Eamon De Valera, Count Plunkett, and Arthur Griffith were appointed delegates to the Peace Conference.

   Mr J J O’Kelly read an address to the “Free Nations of the World”. Count Plunkett read the address in Irish. Mr John MacNeil, who proposed the adoption of the address, said they were not asking the people of other countries to establish a Free State in Ireland, because he deemed that the state had already been established. All they asked was that it should be recognised and guaranteed by the “Powers” which were assembled in Paris to settle the peace of the world and granted the rights of small nations. Mr J J Walsh from Cork City seconded, and the motion was unanimously carried.

  The constitution of the Dáil was then read and also agreed to. It provided that the Dáil should have full legislative powers and should consist of members elected by the people from the existing constituencies; “Full Executive power shall reside in the Ministry, which shall consist of a Prime Minister selected by the Dáil, and four Ministers, namely, Ministers of Finance, Foreign Affairs, Home Affairs, and Defence. The Prime Minister shall nominate the four, and have power to deprive them of office. A Ceann Comhairle (Speaker) shall be selected, for the year by the Dáil, ‘ or a substitute if he is not present. The Ministry shall receive whatever money they require by vote of the Dáil and will be responsible to the Dáil for the monies voted”.  Provision was made for the-auditing of the accounts, and the Constitution provided that was temporary, and could be changed by written resolution submitted on ten days’ notice.

  Mr Piaras Beasley read in Irish, and Alderman Tom Kelly in English, the democratic programme of social and economic principles.  Mr Richard Mulcahy moved the adoption of the programme. Mr Con Collins seconded the motion which was carried. The sitting was then adjourned till the following day when Standing Orders were to be under consideration. As the members of the Dáil rose in their places for the adjournment they were loudly applauded, and the cheering was renewed by the crowd outside the Mansion House when they left the building. The crowd then quietly dispersed. At night a reception was given by Mr Cathal Brugha, Speaker of Dáil Éireann.


Missed a column last year, check out the indices at Kieran’s heritage website,

Kieran is also showcasing some of the older column series on the River Lee on his heritage facebook page at the moment, Cork Our City, Our Town.


981a. Archival documents on display in Cork City Museum showcasing the organisation of the first Dáil Éireann in 1919 (picture: Kieran McCarthy)



Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 17 January 2019

980a. Photograph of first Dail Eireann meeting, 21 January 1919


Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 17 January 2019

Tales from 1919: Preparations for the First Dáil Éireann


“Within recent years no such interest has been centred in any function in the capital of Ireland as that associated with the Sinn Féin Constituent Assembly, which commenced its deliberations in the Mansion House this afternoon. For some time past the opening sitting of An Dáil Éireann (to give the function its Irish title) has attracted a considerable amount of publicity, and all forms of rumours as well as speculations have been circulated with regard to it. In Sinn Féin circles, of course, the function was regarded with the utmost interest, but it is no exaggeration to say that the people of the country, as well as those of Great Britain and many other nations, anxiously awaited its deliberations” (undocumented press reporter, passed by the Press Censor, Ireland, 21 January 1919).

     The 21 January 2019 coincides with the centenary commemoration of the assembly of 28 (of 73) Sinn Féin MPs at Dublin’s Mansion House and their declaration of the first Dáil Éireann. The Cork Examiner and Irish Independent provide much detail on the event.  Some hours before the opening of the proceedings, crowds began to assemble outside the Mansion House, and along the different thoroughfares adjoining the official residence of the Lord Mayor. It became apparent that the attendance of the general public would reach large proportions. Stewards on the streets were in place to make sure public congestion was avoided. Vehicular, tram, and pedestrian traffic along Dawson Street were not impeded to any great extent.

    Admission was by ticket and ticket-holders were formed into a queue – a system that was rigidly enforced. Those who did not possess tickets, lined the footpaths in the Mansion House quarter waiting for the arrival of the Republican representatives, and extended to each a hearty applause and cheer. The crowd increased as the afternoon advanced. Photographers, film and camera operators were plentiful.

    From the windows of houses in Dawson street several sightseers were accommodated with seats, and amongst those that were observed were Colonel W Edgeworthe Johnstone, Chief Commissioner of Dublin Metropolitan Police and Brigadier-General Sir Joseph Byrne, Inspector-General RIC, as well as some military officers who followed with a deep interest the happenings on the street. Several detectives in plain clothes mingled with the crowd or took up positions adjacent the entrance to the Mansion House. However, there was no interference with the Sinn Féin members of Parliament or public or the proceedings within the building.

    Early visitors who proceeded through Grattan Street to the Mansion House were surprised to find that the popular street, which adjoins Dawson Street, was decorated with Union Jacks and the flags of the Allies. The flags were exhibited in connection with an entertainment provided in the Mansion House in the forenoon for expatriated prisoners of war from Germany. This entertainment did not conclude until about ninety minutes prior to the commencement of the Constituent Assembly proceedings, and the soldiers, who were attached to the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, left the building in presence of the queue and large crowd gathered in Dawson street. Headed by their band, and accompanied by other soldiers and civilians, the soldiers marched towards the centre of the city without any incident taking place.

    In accordance with arrangements for the Mansion House, the members of the Dáil Éireann assembly, as well as the Press representatives, who were in attendance from many parts of the world, were admitted by the main entrance, and the public ticket holders by the side entrance. The sitting of Dáil Éireann was devoid of all ceremonial symbolism, and there was no Volunteer display outside or inside, the Mansion House.  A majority of the Sinn Féin members of Parliament were in jail or in America. The Round Room of the Mansion House, which was spacious, was allotted to the assembly, and every part of it was quickly filled. The portion of the building underneath the lecture platform was occupied by the Sinn Féin MPs, while the galleries and other parts of the room were allotted for the accommodation of the public.

   The attendance of the general public was large and representative, and included Rev M O’ Flanagan, Mrs Maud Gonne McBride, numerous Catholic clergymen, an Australian Catholic clergyman in uniform, a number of American Naval officers, but the labour movement had only a few representatives in the gathering.

    Three minutes before the time announced for the beginning of the proceedings, Count Plunkett, attended by his colleagues, entered the Round Room. As they proceeded to their seats the audience rose and indulged in loud and prolonged cheering. There was no delay in proceeding with the business of the meeting, which was conducted in the Irish language, with the exception of the announcement in English of some declarations after they had been first read in Irish. It was evident that the business transacted had been carefully prepared, as each of the Sinn Féin MPs was provided with printed matter, which they read in the order in which they were called upon to do so. The sitting occupied about two hours and was devoid of any incident except the enthusiasm which greeted the declaration of the Irish Republic.

More next week…


Missed a column last year, check out the indices at Kieran’s heritage website,

Kieran is also showcasing some of the older column series on the River Lee on his heritage facebook page at the moment, Cork Our City, Our Town.




980a. Photograph of first Dail Éireann meeting, 21 January 1919 (National Library, Dublin)

980b. Public admission ticket to first Dail Éireann meeting, 21 January 1919 (Capuchin Annual, 1969, National Library, Ireland)

980b. Public admission ticket to first Dail Eireann meeting, 21 January 1919