The Oireachtas Library & Research Service holds a collection of historical documents dating from the 16th century. In these exhibitions we highlight some of the fascinating items in our collection. Search our catalogue if you are looking for something specific, or if you would like to browse the entire collection.
In the display case
The Oireachtas Library & Research Service exhibits selected treasures from the Oireachtas collection in a display case in Leinster House with a new selection each month.
This month we are showing a copy of the Irish Labour Party general election manifesto published in September 1918. Despite the preparation of this manifesto, the Labour Party did not take part in the general election of 1918 or the parliamentary elections of 1921. This decision was taken to facilitate a clear-cut decision by the electorate on the national question and to avoid the possibility of a split in the labour movement which was organised on an all-Ireland basis.
During 1918, in anticipation of the forthcoming general election, the Irish Trade Union Congress and Labour Party reversed the order of its title to the Irish Labour Party and Trade Union Congress (ILP&TUC). It had more than doubled in strength to 250,000 members between the years 1916 and 1918.
Keeping up the momentum of the anti-conscription campaign from earlier in the year, the ILP&TUC Annual Congress, held at City Hall, Waterford on 5-7 August 1918, decided to draw up a manifesto for the upcoming general election as well as a new constitution. Both of these were to be presented to a Special Congress before the end of the year. Six weeks later the manifesto was published.
The Special Congress to decide on an election strategy and discuss the ILP&TUC manifesto was held in the Mansion House, Dublin, on 1-2 November 1918.
Back in August 1918, when the National Executive decided to contest the forthcoming general election there was little sign of an early end to the war in Europe. The election was referred to as a ‘war election’ to be followed at the end of the war by dissolution and another election. In a matter of weeks, however, the war turned. Germany was on the retreat and peace was imminent. The election now became a ‘peace election’. With new republics being formed in Europe, the labour movement came under pressure to withdraw in order to allow a demonstration of unity on the issue of Irish self-determination. At the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis, held just two days before the Special Congress, speakers called for unity. Sean T O’Kelly was quoted in the Freeman's Journal saying that Labour should agree to stand aside and “let the election be fought on the clean issue of Ireland versus England”.
Thomas Johnson / Image courtesy of the National Library of Ireland
On the morning of the Special Congress, the National Executive met and recommended that the Labour Party should withdraw from the forthcoming general election. Later that day, Thomas Johnson, treasurer, on behalf of the National Executive, outlined the position to delegates (as quoted in the report of the conference, page 104):
“A call comes from all parts of Ireland for a demonstration of unity on this question, such as was witnessed on the Conscription issue. Your Executive believes that the workers of Ireland join earnestly in this desire, that they would willingly sacrifice, for a brief period, their aspirations towards political power if thereby the fortunes of the nation can be enhanced (applause).
"In the light of these new circumstances, the National Executive has reviewed the position and has decided to recommend the withdrawal from this Election of all Labour Candidates- (applause). They do so in the hope that the democratic demand for self-determination, to which the Irish Labour Party and its candidates give their unqualified adherence, will thereby obtain the freest chance of expression at the polls."
Mr Thomas McPartlin (Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners, Dublin) seconded the motion saying that he did so “solely influenced by the amount of good it would do in keeping the workers of Ireland united for the fight that would come in the future”.
The recommendation of the National Executive was accepted by the delegates.
Archives Exhibition by Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the National Archives of Ireland. Retrieved from http://centenaries-ituc.nationalarchives.ie/introduction/
Devoy-McAulliffe, F. (2017) The day when Irish labour found itself: the general strike against conscription in Crowley, J. Ó Drisceoil. D. and Murphy, M. (eds.) Atlas of the Irish Revolution, pp.330-334.
Farrell, B. (1970) Labour and the Irish political party system: A suggested approach to analysis, Economic and Social Review, 1 (4) pp. 477-509
Halligan, B. (1978) Snapshots: five days of Labour Party history. Retrieved from http://brendanhalligan.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/BH-5-Days-Labour-History-NC.pdf
O’Connor Lysaght, D. R. (2013) Labour in waiting: the after-effects of the Dublin lockout, History Ireland, 21 (4) July/August, pp. 44-47
Maps combine art, history and geography but also commercial interests and can take on agendas as well. The Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (Theatre of the World) by Abraham Ortelius was a sublime combination of these and was the first effort to bind together maps in a universal format with descriptive text, what we now know as an atlas. The name atlas is used for a collection of maps or charts usually bound together and derives from a custom which was initiated by cartographer Gerardus Mercator in the 16th century of using the figure of Atlas, shown holding a globe, as a frontispiece for books of maps. We are fortunate in having a map of Ireland from the 1592 edition of the Theatrum in our collection but we also have some later maps of interest