A 1927 election rally

Our photograph was taken on June 5, 1927 from the platform of a Cumann na nGaedheal election rally in Eyre Square. The crowd (almost entirely male ), “looked voters every one”. In the background you can see the Browne Doorway and the Railway Hotel.

After five years of self government (1922-27 ), the people had more time to reflect on the administration’s perceived neglect of the west and register its verdict. The plethora of small parties and interest groups that contested the June 1927 general election indicated a growing dissatisfaction with the economic and social conservatism of the Cosgrave regime. The Galway constituency covered the entire county and city and returned nine deputies. Twenty two candidates stood. Commenting on the developing maturity of the local electorate, the Connacht Tribune wrote:

“The people today are much more critical than they were in 1923. They are more alive to their own interests. A period of poverty that has been the common lot of all European countries since the war has made their senses much more acute, and has correspondingly lessened the influence of the mere #tub thumper# or of the village politician. What is wanted is not self-interest or sonorous phrases of little meaning, but capacity and, where it is obtainable, experience.”

Much of the volatility and bitterness of the Civil War was in evidence at election rallies, which were often raucous and hostile, with insults being hurled by candidates and protestors alike. There were many Garda interventions, sometimes with batons drawn and interrupters were often removed.

No candidate was elected until Patrick Hogan of Cumann na nGaedheal made it on the fourth count. Mark Killilea of Fianna Fáil was elected on the ninth count and on the 12th, it was the turn of Frank Fahy FF and Seán Broderick CnG. Martin McDonogh  CnG made it on the 14th count, and on the 16th, William John Duffy, National League; Gilbert Lynch of Labour; and Seán Tubridy and Thomas Powell, both FF, were elected.

Others who contested were Joseph Mongan, James J Nestor, and John McKeague of CnG; Stephen Jordan and Brian Cusack FF; Barney Mellows, Sinn Fein; Pádraic Ó Máille of Clann Éireann; John Ronaldson and Patrick Lambert of the Farmers’ Party; James Cosgrave, James McDonnell, and James Redington of the National League; and Séamus O’Mulloy, Independent.

For the third time, Galway registered the lowest percentage turnout in the country. Cumann na nGaedheal was the single largest party in the Dáil but was frustrated by the result. Its national support had dropped and despite having the highest number of first preferences in Galway it had lost seats to Fianna Fáil. On July 10, Kevin O’Higgins was assassinated and the Government introduced a drastic and far-reaching public safety bill. On August 25, Cosgrave dissolved the Dáil and called another election for September, at which four Cumann na nGaedheal candidates and five Fianna Fáil candidates were elected.

All of the above information is drawn from a newly published book entitled The West Must Wait, County Galway and the Irish Free State, 1922-32. It is written by Una Newell and presents a new perspective on the development of the Irish Free State through a detailed examination of key local themes — land, poverty, politics, emigration, the status of the Irish language, the influence of radical republicans, and the authority of the Catholic Church. It is an extraordinary work of research published by Manchester University Press and it should be in every library in the county.

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