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Marching on the Road to Freedom: Dáil Éireann 1919

This exhibition commemorates the centenary of the first meeting of Dáil Éireann one hundred years ago.

  Admittance ticket to the first meeting of Dáil Éireann. Signed by Eamon Tuke, to whom the pass was issued.

Marching on the Road to Freedom: Dáil Éireann 1919, a new exhibition commemorating the centenary of the first meeting of Dáil Éireann on 21st January 1919, is now on display at the National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts and History in Collins Barracks, Benburb Street, Dublin 7.

The ‘Declaration of Independence’, handwritten by Éamon de Valera on the stationery of the American Delegation of the Elected Government of the Republic of Ireland, Washington DC, and dated January 21st, 1919.

The formal opening of the first Dáil Éireann took place in the Mansion House, Dublin, on 21st January 1919. Of the Dáil’s sixty-nine elected deputies, twenty-seven attended the first meeting, while the remaining forty-two were absent, in most cases due to imprisonment. The total attendance was in the region of 2,000, with a large proportion of the attendees being journalists.

Printed reproduction of official photograph of the first session of Dáil Éireann. A general view of assembly surrounded by individual photographs of the members.

Dáil Éireann was banned by the British government in September 1919, and from that point onward its ministers and officials suffered increased harassment, with the resulting need to move premises on a regular basis. As a consequence, there was very little legislative activity, although there were notable successes in other areas, such as the collection of £370,000 through the Dáil Éireann National Loan.

Boots worn by Harry Boland during his secret trip (in the role of a ship's stoker) to the U.S.A., May 1919, as an envoy of Dáil Éireann. Secreted in the soles of the boots were copies of official documents, including the ‘Declaration of Independence’.

The formal opening of Dáil Éireann took place against a background of increasing violence in Ireland between nationalists and British forces. On the same day as the first meeting of the Dáil, 21st January 1919, nine Volunteers from the 3rd Tipperary Brigade carried out an ambush at Soloheadbeg, Co. Tipperary. In retrospect, the ambush at Soloheadbeg would be seen as the first engagement of the War of Independence.

Seal of Dáil Éireann, used by the first and second Dáil. Steel intaglio and lead cameo (impression) of the seal. In the centre is a harp, around which are the words, 'Sigullum Reipublicae Hibernicae - Seala Saorstáit Éireann'.

The exhibition coincides with an afternoon of talks hosted by The National Museum of Ireland’s Education & Outreach Department. The talks will bring together a broad range of academics, historians and curators that explore this momentous period in the development of modern Ireland. This exhibition runs for the duration of 2019, and will coincide with a number of themed events throughout the year.

The exhibition at the Museum of Decorative Arts & History, Collins Barracks

Location: Marching on the Road to Freedom: Dáil Éireann 1919 is located in the Museum of Decorative Arts and History, Collins Barracks, Benburb Street, Dublin 7.