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Thread: The 1918 Election Explained. Why Sinn Fein Won.

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    Default The 1918 Election Explained. Why Sinn Fein Won.

    There is an assumption that most Irish Nationalists were disposed to Home Rule because all Nationalist Mps elected to Westminster were either members of the IPP, the All For Ireland League or alternatively Independent Nationalists. In contrast, Sinn Fein and their manifesto for an independent Ireland attracted little or no support from the voting public. However, this analysis ignores the fact that Nationalist MPs were elected from a narrow subset of the population because universal suffrage did not exist. Voting was restricted to upper class males, mainly wealthy business men and property owners. Most were reluctant to change the status quo and wished to maintain some sort of link with Britain and the Empire.

    This is borne out by the voting figures in the 1910 and 1918 elections. The total vote for Nationalist MPs was 114,485 in the January 1910 election and 121,379 in the December 1910 election. In 1918 the vote for the IPP and other Nationalist Mps almost doubled to 234,681, as a result of the extension of the suffrage. Most of these votes would have come from upper class women. The IPP in fact held on to its existing voter base. The IPP lost because it failed to attract new voters from the newly enfranchised lower classes who were republican in outlook and favoured independence.

    The 1918 election offered this hitherto invisible Republican constituency their first chance to vote for independence courtesy of Sinn Fein and they took it. This is the primary reason for the Sinn Fein victory.

    It is fair to assume that most nationalists would have voted for independence in 1880 if universal suffrage had existed, most Nationalists would have voted for independence in 1900 if universal suffrage had existed and most Nationalists would have voted for independence in 1910 if universal suffrage had existed.
    In fact, it was a forgone conclusion that Sinn Fein or any other party that fought the 1918 election on an independence platform would get most of the Nationalist vote and this would have happened regardless of the aftermath of the 1916 rising, the conscription crises, anti-war sentiment or any other reason put forward by historians trying to explain the seismic shift in attitudes. There was no seismic shift. Republicans simply got to vote for the first time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TruthInTheNews View Post
    There is an assumption that most Irish Nationalists were disposed to Home Rule because all Nationalist Mps elected to Westminster were either members of the IPP, the All For Ireland League or alternatively Independent Nationalists. In contrast, Sinn Fein and their manifesto for an independent Ireland attracted little or no support from the voting public. However, this analysis ignores the fact that Nationalist MPs were elected from a narrow subset of the population because universal suffrage did not exist. Voting was restricted to upper class males, mainly wealthy business men and property owners. Most were reluctant to change the status quo and wished to maintain some sort of link with Britain and the Empire.

    This is borne out by the voting figures in the 1910 and 1918 elections. The total vote for Nationalist MPs was 114,485 in the January 1910 election and 121,379 in the December 1910 election. In 1918 the vote for the IPP and other Nationalist Mps almost doubled to 234,681, as a result of the extension of the suffrage. Most of these votes would have come from upper class women. The IPP in fact held on to its existing voter base. The IPP lost because it failed to attract new voters from the newly enfranchised lower classes who were republican in outlook and favoured independence.

    The 1918 election offered this hitherto invisible Republican constituency their first chance to vote for independence courtesy of Sinn Fein and they took it. This is the primary reason for the Sinn Fein victory.

    It is fair to assume that most nationalists would have voted for independence in 1880 if universal suffrage had existed, most Nationalists would have voted for independence in 1900 if universal suffrage had existed and most Nationalists would have voted for independence in 1910 if universal suffrage had existed.
    In fact, it was a forgone conclusion that Sinn Fein or any other party that fought the 1918 election on an independence platform would get most of the Nationalist vote and this would have happened regardless of the aftermath of the 1916 rising, the conscription crises, anti-war sentiment or any other reason put forward by historians trying to explain the seismic shift in attitudes. There was no seismic shift. Republicans simply got to vote for the first time.
    Given that:

    • Sinn Fein only got 47% of the votes cast.
    • In some constituencies, they ran unopposed.
    • Some MPs were defections from the Parliamentary Party
    • There was intimidation and impersonation by Nationalists (probably by Unionists also),


    the claim that the vote was a thumping endorsement of an Independent Republic looks a bit less solid. It can be interpreted as a vote for Separation and Abstention from Westminster.

    The claim that Sinn Fein would have won even without a 1916 Rising or a Conscription Crisis is dubious in the extreme. Sinn Fein was a fringe party before 1916, it would probably have increased its vote with the new franchise, but hardly to the extent of 1918.
    "A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence" - David Hume

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    Your 47% figure is a distortion. SF won 25 seats unopposed so got no votes in those constituencies.

    They did get 69% of elected MPs though.

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    Politics.ie Member former wesleyan's Avatar
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    If.... there'd been universal franchise in Ireland in the 1800's there'd likely to have been universal franchise in all the other countries involved and therefore the political world would likely have been a different place.
    "What Michael Collins accepted in '22,De Valera accepted in'27 and Gerry Adams accepted in '98.Sooner or later they all come around to accepting the Treaty"

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    Quote Originally Posted by owedtojoy View Post
    Given that:

    • Sinn Fein only got 47% of the votes cast.
    • In some constituencies, they ran unopposed.
    • Some MPs were defections from the Parliamentary Party
    • There was intimidation and impersonation by Nationalists (probably by Unionists also),


    the claim that the vote was a thumping endorsement of an Independent Republic looks a bit less solid. It can be interpreted as a vote for Separation and Abstention from Westminster.

    The claim that Sinn Fein would have won even without a 1916 Rising or a Conscription Crisis is dubious in the extreme. Sinn Fein was a fringe party before 1916, it would probably have increased its vote with the new franchise, but hardly to the extent of 1918.
    The claim is based on the premise that pro-republicans did not have the vote prior to 1918 and the political divide in Ireland was mirrored by the class divide. Anti-Treaty SF became FF who represented the small farmers and the working class. FG represented everyone else including ex IPP and Unionists.

    Around thirty percent of the voters in the 26 counties rejected complete independence. That is not an insignificant number and pretty much represents the FG share of the vote post 1932.

    Between 1948 and 1977 inclusive Fine Gael's average share of the vote was 30 per cent, and its only hope of securing office was in a coalition--which happened thrice, with four other parties (1948-51), with two other parties (1954-7) and with the Labour party alone (1973-7).

    Notes on Recent Elections The Irish general elections of 1981 and 1982 - ScienceDirect

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    Quote Originally Posted by former wesleyan View Post
    If.... there'd been universal franchise in Ireland in the 1800's there'd likely to have been universal franchise in all the other countries involved and therefore the political world would likely have been a different place.
    That has absolutely no bearing on the proposition that support for an Independent Ireland was concentrated amongst the working class and rural poor, constituencies that did not have a vote until 1918. The untermenschen did not have a voice because the media was controlled by the Unionists and Home Rulers.

    Did the ITGWU condemn the rebels?

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    SF won and the industrial schools were saved.
    We appreciate the move by the Government today and remind ourselves that it is a bail-out by taxpayers for the banks. Pearse Doherty

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    Quote Originally Posted by PBP voter View Post
    SF won and the industrial schools were saved.
    Industrial schools were founded in 1868 - well before SF came into existence in 1905.

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    Politics.ie Member Fir Bolg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by owedtojoy View Post
    Given that:

    [LIST][*]Sinn Fein only got 47% of the votes cast.[*]In some constituencies, they ran unopposed.
    I think it was 24 constituencies that were uncontested and the reasons for that are twofold. Labour decided to opt out to allow SF run unimpeded and the other parties knew they hadn’t a hope of beating SF so didn’t bother to run a candidate. This distorts your 47%. If the votes were cast in these constituencies then %share of the vote would be significantly higher.

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    Great thread - thanks for putting it up.

    That figure of 47% of the votes cast accounts for only 48 of the 73 seats that Sinn Fein won.

    Sinn Fein won 25 other seats unopposed because they were so popular in those constituencies. There might have been intimidation by all the difference political parties to various degrees - but remember, British government propaganda formulated in Dublin Castle and circulated through a censored press, alleged that republican militants had threatened potential candidates to discourage non-Sinn Féiners from running.

    Sinn Féin also did not contest four seats due to a deal with the IPP - and failed to agree a Pact with the IPP in the some of the Ulster constituencies which allowed the Unionists to win more seats in Nationalist areas.

    If we add the 6 IPP seats, Nationalists won 79 out of the 105 seats available - and could have won more if the election was managed better. A great day for Ireland none the less.

    Last edited by Talk Back; 7th January 2019 at 05:04 PM.

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