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Ireland and Britain to go to the polls on 14 December
Prime Minister Lloyd George opening the General Election in Westminster Photo: Illustrated London News, 3 November 1918

Ireland and Britain to go to the polls on 14 December

Westminster, 20 November 1918 - After months of speculation, a date has finally set for a general election.

The voters of Britain and Ireland will go to the polls on 14 December, although it is not expected that the counting of votes will begin until after Christmas.

The announcement of the election was made yesterday in the House of Commons by Andrew Bonar Law:

‘The Prime Minister proposes to recommend his Majesty to issue on 25th November a proclamation summoning a new Parliament. When this is done the nominations day will be December 4th, and the polling day December 14th’.

The announcement has brought to an end the coalition unity that has prevailed in British politics for much of the war. The Labour Party has signaled that the triggering of the election terminated ‘the conditions on which they entered the coalition’ and they will now fight the election as an independent party.

At an emergency meeting held in London, at which banners with ‘Hands off Russia’ were displayed and the ‘The Red Flag’ was sung with gusto, Labour effectively launched its election campaign. A silent remembrance was also observed for all those who had died or suffered in the recent conflagration.

Under the Reform Act of earlier this year, the number of constituencies up for grabs has been increased from 670 to 707, with Ireland, Scotland and Wales allocated two additional seats each.

However, the redrawing of the electoral map in Ireland means that the representation from the three southern provinces will be reduced by four members, while representation from Ulster will be increased by the same amount.

In the next parliament, Ulster will return 37 members (as opposed to 33 previously) and the rest of Ireland will return 64. It is believed the changes (an increase in seat in the Down constituencies from four to five and a reduction in Tyrone from four to three) will benefit the Unionist Party.

This has drawn accusations of gerrymandering from some nationalist quarters.

The Irish Labour Party has opted to step aside for this election and a number of Irish Party MPs, including Capt. Stephen Gwynn, have announced they will not re-contest. More retirements are expected in the coming weeks. 

Sinn Féin, meanwhile, has committed to contesting all Irish constituencies and promised to leave their seats vacated if they win. Already 82 Sinn Féin candidates have been selected, including the party’s imprisoned president, Éamon de Valera, who has been chosen to oppose the Irish Party leader John Dillon in East Mayo.

According to the Cork Examiner, the election will ‘test the common sense and the patriotism of the people’ of Ireland, the newspaper taking a cue from Cardinal Logue who has warned against the adoption of ‘ill-considered and Utopian’ methods, the effect of which would be, the cardinal asserts, ‘Future disaster, defeat and collapse’.

[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.