Suffragette convicted of defacing sculpture of John Redmond
Refuses to pay fine imposed by court
Dublin, 8 May 1913 - An Irish suffragette, Geraldine Manning, told a court in Dublin today that she would not pay the 25 shillings fine imposed on her for defacing a statue.
Ms Manning (40) had been convicted by the court of daubing green paint across a bust of John Redmond, the leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party. She was protesting against the failure of the Irish Parliamentary Party to support a Women’s Franchise Bill in the House of Commons. This Bill – which would have given voting rights to 6 million women across the United Kingdom – was defeated was 47 votes.
A scrap of paper left by Ms Manning on the pedestal, on which the bust of Mr Redmond rests, read: ‘Why didn’t you get us votes for women, Mr Redmond? A traitor’s face is no adornment to our picture gallery!’ The bust was on display as part of an exhibition of sculpture at the Royal Hibernian Academy on Lower Abbey Street. The court heard evidence from Edward Ryan, an attendant at the Academy, that he had followed Ms Manning as she fled from the building down Abbey Street and into Marlborough Street.
Mr Ryan told the court that he had hailed a police constable who arrested Ms Manning. Upon searching her handbag, the constable found a paintbrush and a bottle of green pain. The policeman in question, Constable O’Brien, told the court that he brought Ms Manning back to the Royal Hibernian Academy and she had declared: ‘I thought it no harm to paint here.’
Later, Ms Manning, who was accompanied in court by members of the Irish Women’s Franchise League, smiled as she entered the dock and said in response to imposition of the fine: ‘I will not pay.’
The defacing of the Redmond statue is part of a wider campaign of increasingly violent civil disobedience undertaken by militant suffragettes across the United Kingdom. In London, alone, an estimated £700-800 worth of damage has been done to stained-glass windows, while 560 letter-boxes have been damaged. The arrest in London last week of leading members of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) was the latest response of police to militant suffragettes.
In the wake of the arrests, six women from the WSPU were charged with conspiring to cause damage to property. Prosecutors in London said that they intended to make it a criminal offence to contribute money to the WSPU and that they would suppress the organisation’s newspaper, The Suffragette.
Despite the suppression of The Suffragette, copies of the paper are still being sold on the streets of Dublin by members of the Irish Women’s Franchise League, with reports indicating a brisk trade.
[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.]