Reflecting on a decade of War and Revolution in Ireland 1912-1923:

Votes for the people: 1918

Conference Year: 2018
Conference Location: Belfast

Universities Ireland, the network of university presidents and vice-chancellors on the island of Ireland, is sponsoring the seventh in a series of conferences to commemorate the centenary of key events in the history of modern Ireland ranging from the Ulster Covenant, through the First World War and the 1916 Rising, to the foundation of the Irish and Northern Irish States in Ulster University, York Street on Saturday 1st December 2018 under the title Reflecting on a decade of War and Revolution in Ireland 1912-1923: Votes for the people: 1918, Ireland’s first democratic election?

The post-war general election of December 1918 is one of the most important events in Ireland’ modern history. Constitutional nationalism was swept away by the reborn republicanism of Sinn Féin in three of Ireland’s four provinces. It was not, however, an unvarnished triumph for the more radical Irish nationalism forged by Easter 1916 and the conscription crisis of 1918. The Unionist position in North-East Ulster was further entrenched, and the outlines of a future partitioned island became apparent from the electoral map.

While the revolutionary outcomes of the election have dominated historical analysis, it was also the most democratic election seen in Ireland up to that point. For the first time all men could vote, as could most women over thirty years of age. The electorate swelled from 800,000 to two million voters, providing a unique opportunity for radical political change.

The aim of this conference is to explore both the high politics of the moment and its wider social context. Why did Sinn Féin triumph? How did the enfranchisement of women shape the election and the status of women in society? How did Unionists and Britain respond to the republican challenge? How was the election shaped by local and global concerns during a period of rapid revolutionary change?

To address these questions, we have assembled some of Ireland and Britain’s leading historians of the period.

The conference will run from 9am – 5pm in the Conor Lecture Theatre, Ulster University, York Street, Belfast.

The conference speakers and talks will include:

Dr Diane Urquhart, Reader, Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool

‘A very different thing from freedom’: unionism, equality and the 1918 election’ 

Dr Colin Reid, Lecturer in Irish and British history, University of Sheffield

‘The past as destiny: history, democracy and the republican mind, c. 1918’ 

Dr Helga Woggon, Independent Historian

‘Winifred Carney & the 1918 elections – A microhistory of her election stand for Women & a Workers’ Republic’

Lord Bew, Chair, House of Lords Appointments Committee

‘Being posted for a fool: the story of the Irish revolution’

Professor Michael Laffan, Emeritus Professor, University College Dublin

‘Perfect organisation and infinite audacity’: Sinn Féin’s incomplete triumph’

Professor Fearghal McGarry, Professor of Modern Irish History, Queen’s University Belfast

‘Irish self-determination: the global context’

Dr Eamon Phoenix, Political Historian

‘How the West was won: Devlin, de Valera and the 1918 Contest in Belfast Fall’s 

We would be honoured if you would join us for this important conference.  There will be a small charge of £10 (payable at the door) to cover the cost of lunch and refreshments.

Please register before Friday 23 November. If you have a colleague or student who would also be interested in attending, please pass these details and attachments to her/him. Further details are available from Eimear Donnelly at or 0044 (0) 28 37515292.