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W.T. Cosgrave elected as Sinn Féin MP for Kilkenny City
Cosgrave making speech from Courthouse Balcony after being elected in the Kilkenny by-election Photo: Bureau of Military History

W.T. Cosgrave elected as Sinn Féin MP for Kilkenny City

Kilkenny, 13 August 1917 - W.T. Cosgrave has been elected as the new MP for Kilkenny City.

A member of Sinn Féin, Cosgrave’s victory in the recent by-election has delivered yet another boost to the party. He received over 66% of the vote, defeating the Irish Parliamentary Party’s John Magennis, former mayor of the city.

The size of Cosgrave’s majority was unsurprising to observers of the polling day activities of the two campaigns: Sinn Féin colours predominated by a margin of 3 to 1 among the motorcars that were bringing rural voters to the polls.

News of Cosgrave’s victory was met with celebrations across Kilkenny and beyond. Bonfires were lit and 700 messages of congratulations were received, among them one from Rev. M.J. McGrath, CC, who telegraphed from England: ‘God bless Kilkenny. Knock-out blow to Party. Exiles proud of you.’

Left: W.T. Cosgrave and Laurence Ginnell drive through a crowd of Sinn Féin supporters in Kilkenny. Right: Sinn Féin supporters parade with flags through Rose Inn street in Kilkenny. (Images: National Library of Ireland, KE 141 & KE 142)

Following the declaration of the result, W.T. Cosgrave returned to Dublin where several thousand people came out to greet him at Kingsbridge Station.

Dan McCarthy, who travelled from Kilkenny to Kingsbridge with Mr Cosgrave, said that the people of that city had ‘sent a message to the bogus Convention that Ireland would have no patched up peace. Their demand was for a free and independent Ireland. That was the issue they had put before the electors, who had endorsed that claim.’

Then, to cheers, he added: ‘When Dublin got the chance it would do the likewise. When the opportunity came they would sweep the members of the Irish party from public life. Indeed, they deserved to be swept out of the country altogether.’

The sense of jubilation was not universal, however. The Irish Parliamentary Party-aligned Freeman’s Journal described the result as yet another repudiation of a policy of constitutional settlement with Great Britain. 

The paper has voiced scepticism as to how many of the 700 who voted for Cosgrave in Kilkenny were ‘prepared to pass from pencils to action’, assuming that the large percentage of them had no intention of ‘risking their persons or their property in such a fashion. They would not sacrifice a toe-nail to bring the Republic within the domain of practical politics.’

Moreover, the Freeman’s Journal believes the recklessness of Sinn Féin’s promise to free Ireland, ‘so far as it is realisable at all, means civil war’.

[Editor'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.]

RTÉ

Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.