It was 100 years ago when the Irish Parliament (Dáil Éireann) was established and it was 100 years ago when it came under severe suppression when it was deemed illegal by Britain.
On Sept 10, 1919, Dáil Éireann was declared a dangerous association and was prohibited.
Following the December 1918 general election in Britain and Ireland, the Irish independence movement, Sinn Féin, won 73 of the 105 seats available for Irish Members of Parliament in Britain's House of Commons. Rather than taking up seats in the London Parliament, Sinn Féin followed through with what they had promised in their manifesto and set up an Irish Parliament in Dublin, called Dáil Éireann.
On Jan 21, 1919, Ireland's parliament was established in Dublin city. A cabinet was selected, courts set up, a constitution drawn, and a declaration of independence following an address to the free nations of the world.
The British response to the Irish Parliament was brutal. Members of the Irish Parliament were hounded and arrested. Those who evaded arrest tried to continue the work of parliament albeit in an underground fashion. The suppression of the Dáil in 1919 can mirror what is going on in Catalonia today and during Ireland's fight for independence, Catalans stood in solidarity with the Irish.
Catalans and the Easter Rising
The 1916 Easter Rising was an event that caught the attention of Catalans fighting their own battle for Independence. In the years following 1916 Catalans grew closer to the struggle in Ireland and followed it with great interest. They found in Ireland a kinship in the struggle against oppression.
After Dáil Éireann was outlawed in 1919, that very same outlawed government in Dublin received a letter from staff at a Catalan newspaper, La Veu de Catalunya, informing the Irish how their struggle gave Catalans the "courage to pursue the fight and recover the freedom and the personality of Catalonia politically as well as socially."
In the late 1920s, a Catalan political movement emerged under the name Nosaltres Sols which translates to We Ourselves/ Ourselves Alone. It was a direct link to the influence of the Irish struggle and Sinn Féin which also translates to Ourselves Alone.
Inspiring Irish propaganda
During the years of the War of Independence in Ireland, the Irish Parliament strove for international recognition. Sean T O'Kelly, a future president of Ireland, was one of many delegates cast across the globe in search of international respect for the small nation seeking Independence from Britain.
In 1921 during a speech in Paris O'Kelly added Catalonia to the swelling number of small nations in search of Independence stating how they were "copying Irish methods and utilizing Irish propaganda for inspiring their own men."
Máire NÍ Bhriain was the Irish representative in Catalonia during 1920 and she wrote how when 18-year-old medical student and IRA volunteer Kevin Barry was executed by the British, students at Barcelona University held a special mass attended by hundreds of people and then had a wreath made of waxed flowers and sent it to Dublin. While in Barcelona Máire also managed to raise funds for the Irish prisoners' dependents fund and £120 was generously sent from the Catalans to the Irish.
Máire also detailed how when the Sinn Féin Lord Mayor of Cork Terence MacSwiney was arrested and sent to an English prison, his plight was carefully watched by the Catalans. When MacSwiney went on a hunger strike and subsequently died, his death resulted in outpourings of grief in Catalonia.
Marie wrote, "university students and shop assistants all wore green ribbons on their buttons holes......the Catalans always cherish their desire for separation from Spain and their desire for independence is a common bond of sympathy between them and us."
During MacSwiney's hunger strike daily updates filled Catalan newspapers while masses were said for the Corkman and public demonstrations filled the streets there. When news of MacSwiney's death reached Catalonia a state of mourning kicked in. Women wore black, flags were flown at half-mast and on Oct 27 grief turned into protest when up to 500 Catalans marched on the British Consulate in Barcelona.
Waving a tri-color Irish flag, the crowd marched to the British consulate while chanting 'Viva Irlanda, muera Inglaterra!' (Long live Ireland, death to England!)
The consulate had closed its doors as the Consul General was not in and when the marchers reached the closed building they flung stones and broke all the windows. The angry protesters dispersed when the heavy-handed Guardia Civil arrived on the scene.
Days later the Consul General wrote to London to divulge his utter disgust at how Catalans sided with the cause of Irish freedom. He informed London how the consulate in Barcelona was "now guarded by a strong force of police and Guardia Civil who shall remain until the local excitement over the so-called martyrdom of MacSwiney has subsided."
But the 'local excitement' did not subside because just days later a mass rally in support of the martyred MacSwiney was held in the Catalan capital.
On Nov 1, 1920, thousands attended a rally in Barcelona to show their support for Irish independence and their grief for MacSwiney. It was organized by the trade union CADCI ( Central Autonomista de Dependents del Comerc i la Industrial) and the guest of honor was Máire Ní Bhriain.
Town council's across Catalonia passed motions of condolence to MacSwiney's family and expressions of support for the Irish Republican movement. The town council in Figueres passed a motion of 'admiration of the glorious death of the Lord Mayor of Cork and other patriotic Irishmen who have died in English prison, that our adhesion to the liberty of people and the inviolable rules of justice may be proclaimed.'
The mayor of Villafranca del Panades sent a letter to 10 Downing Street condemning the occupants there for the death of MacSwiney. The British replied by requesting the Spanish government punish local authorities across Catalonia who publicly supported Irish Republicans.
Apart from letters to the British PM and public displays of support, Catalonia also sent condolences directly to the MacSwiney family in Cork. A letter of condolence was sent to MacSwiney's widow from the Directive Council of Nostra Parla in Barcelona. The message of condolence dated Dec 1, 1920, to Mrs. MacSwiney informed her that her husband's 'martyrdom will be an example for all people that, so as ours, feel a foreign domination.'
MacSwiney's two-year-old daughter was also in the thoughts of Catalans and they sent her a doll dressed in traditional Catalan attire which is now displayed at the Cork Public Museum in Fitzgerald's Park.
The Irish Parliament in 1919 was seen as an affront to the British empire, a threat to its hold on Ireland's will for independence, so it was suppressed. The British response to the will of the Irish people in 1919 can be clearly identified in the response of the Spanish to the will of the Catalan people today.
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