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‘England has her answer’: landslide win for de Valera
Eamon de Valera addressing the crowd on the steps of the Ennis Courthouse Photo: National Library of Ireland, KE 132

‘England has her answer’: landslide win for de Valera

Ennis, 12 July 1917 - Eamon de Valera has won the East Clare by-election for Sinn Féin.

The victory margin was an extremely comfortable one – de Valera secured 5,010 votes as against the 2,035 won by his Irish Parliamentary Party opponent Patrick Lynch.

Republicans marched through towns across Ireland waving flags and shouting ‘Up de Valera’, and ‘Up the republic.’

The general view is that local Catholic priests played a prominent role in the victory. They are said to have contributed to bringing votes to the polling booths and of canvassing doubters.

Some of the Sinn Féin supporters listening to de Valera speak outside the Courthouse in Ennis. (Images: National Library of Ireland, KE 131, 133)

After his victory was made clear, Eamon de Valera emerged from the courthouse in Ennis and was greeted by cheering crowds who were waving Republican flags. A voice from the crowd shouted: ‘England has her answer!’ De Valera spoke a first few words in Irish and then said:

‘What shall I say to you? I shall simply say to you that you are men of Clare, that you are worthy descendants of Claremen who fought for Brian Boru, with the same spirit in your hearts today that your forefathers had a thousand years ago.’

Mr de Valera was wearing the uniform of an Irish Volunteer Officer when he spoke.

The by-election in Clare was to fill the seat left vacant following the death of Major Willie Redmond, who died at the recent Battle of Messines. His brother, John Redmond, the leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, is widely rumoured to be considering his future in politics.

Mr Redmond has suffered a brutally difficult year, losing his brother and his sister. He has also suffered from watching the political sentiment in the country shift away from his party towards Sinn Féin and republicanism, as evidenced by the victories of Count Plunkett and Joseph McGuinness in by-elections elsewhere. 

[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.