Abandon the Irish Party and get conscription, Irish MPs warn
Sinn Féin ramps up canvassing efforts ahead of Longford by-election
Longford, 8 May 1917 - There would be conscription introduced in Ireland within a month without Irish Party efforts at Westminster, according to John Dillon MP.
Mr Dillon was speaking in Longford in advance of the pending by-election.
In the course of a typically wide-ranging speech, Mr Dillon set out all that Ireland would lose by the removal of Irish representation from Westminster. Joseph Devlin MP spoke in a similar vein, saying that ‘an Irish republic could only be set up on the ruins of the British Empire, and that any attempt to achieve it would end in bloody and disastrous defeat’.
There has been a dramatic battle for votes in the South Longford constituency where a by-election is taking place following the death of the incumbent Irish Parliamentary Party MP, John Phillips.
Tensions in the constituency are running high, and when Count Plunkett and Laurence Ginnell arrived in Longford, as part of a convoy of about 30 cars bearing Sinn Féin colours, they were assailed by hostile crowd brandishing sticks. By nightfall some 100 cars associated with Sinn Féin were travelling across the constituency – some had come from as far south as Cork and Kerry, and others from as far north as Antrim and Down.
Trainloads of supporters also arrived from Dublin as both the Irish Parliamentary Party and Sinn Féin sought to maximise the votes of Patrick McKenna and Joe McGuinness, respectively.
Parades through the streets and rallies in rural towns in the constituency have on occasion descended into stone-throwing. As a result, police – many armed with rifles – are now visible across the county.
The general view is that the momentum in the election is now with Sinn Féin whose sentiments ‘appeal to the imagination of young farmers, shop assistants, and labourers, for whom red-hot election literature has been specially provided’. Many younger priests have also been lobbying for Sinn Féin, although the higher reaches of the Catholic Church support the Irish Parliamentary Party.
Polling day is 9 May.
[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.]