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Capt. Redmond keeps Waterford seat in the family
Capt. William Redmond has won the seat left vacant by his father, the late John Redmond Photo: National Library of Ireland

Capt. Redmond keeps Waterford seat in the family

Waterford, 25 March 1918 - The new MP for Waterford City will bear same surname as the last one: Redmond.

Capt William Redmond, son of John Redmond, the long-serving Irish Party leader whose recent passing gave rise to this by-election, defeated his Sinn Féin opponent Dr Vincent Joseph White. In what was a straightforward head to head contest, Capt. Redmond secured 1,242 votes to Dr White’s 764.

In many ways, the result is not a surprise. Waterford City was so unlikely to return a Sinn Fein candidate that the Irish Independent described the Nationalist Party’s triumph as a ‘foregone conclusion’.

Both the Irish Party and Sinn Féin campaigned heavily in the constituency in the effort to win it. Sinn Féin President Éamon de Valera was among those who visited the constituency, as was the Irish Parliamentary Party’s Belfast MP Joseph Devlin.

Interestingly, both de Valera and Capt. Redmond, called separately upon the Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, Most Rev. Dr Hackett. Also notable was the presence throughout the campaign of the Irish Volunteers, whose deployment in support of the Sinn Féin candidate drew complaints from Irish Party supporters.

The Redmonds. (L-R) Major Willie Redmond, John Redmond and Capt. William Redmond in 1912. (Image: National Library of Ireland, INDH3)

Rival meetings
The rival factions held simultaneous meetings in the city, but fortunately there were no eruptions of violence.

The Irish Party supporters held a torchlight procession and, with three bands accompanying them, paraded along the Mall before progressing to their meeting place at Ballybricken amid cheering and scenes of great enthusiasm.

Crowds of Sinn Féiners, meanwhile, marched, with pipers leading the way, to their meeting place at Ballytruckle. The Sinn Féin processionists were jeered at points along the route by supporters of their opponent, who chanted ‘Up Redmond’. 

On the day of the election itself a number of Irish Volunteers lined up on the road opposite the entry to Ballybricken polling station, when a women stood on a chair and erected placards above their heads which read ‘Redmond’s Guards’. The counting of the votes began at the Courthouse in Waterford at 10 o’clock on Saturday morning and it was from here, on learning of his victory, that Capt. Redmond was carried on the shoulders of supporters to his hotel.

The victory of Capt. Redmond, coming so fast on the heels of the party’s triumph in South Armagh, provides a much needed fillip to the Irish Party, but its wider significance is already being contested by the different sides.

For the ever-loyal Freeman’s Journal, the Redmond victory is being trumpeted as a repudiation of Sinn Féin’s claim to speak for the people of Ireland.

The paper has been dismissive of Mr de Valera’s post-election assertion that it was the unionists who had given Mr Redmond his majority, a charge that it claimed was ‘wildly grotesque’.

But have the results in South Armagh and Waterford really put a stop to Sinn Féin’s gallop? The Irish Independent doesn’t think so: ‘Even two swallows do not make a summer.’

Footage from Capt. William Redmond's election in Waterford via British Pathé

[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.]


Century Ireland

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