Monday, February 19, 2018


General election September 1927
Link to cartoon in NLI collection
Click on any image for a larger version

General election September 1927
Link to cartoon in NLI collection

General election September 1927
Link to cartoon in NLI collection.

All three cartoons above relate to the general election of 15 September 1927. They are all by Gordon Brewster in whom I have an interest.

They appear in Mel Farrell's new book "Party Politics in a New Democracy - The Irish Free State, 1922-37" and they were the initial cause of my interest in this book, which was launched in the RIA on 8/2/2018.

The 1927 election was extremely important in the evolution of the Irish parliament into the two party system which has persisted up to the present day, more or less.

We have had coalition governments but they have been effectively dominated by one of the two major parties, Fine Gael (formerly Cumann na nGaedheal) and Fianna Fáil. The year 1927 saw the anti-Treaty party abandon its policy of abstention and take its seats in the Dáil. It went on to oust the Cumann na nGaedheal government in the subsequent election in 1932.

Stephen Collins

Stephen Collins, former political editor of the Irish Times, was the guest speaker and the big name draw. Stephen gave some background to the Irish political party system, and recounted how he, like Mel, became fascinated by it He has spent much of his life to date writing about it and his columns are well respected. He is also related to Mel so his contribution was a mix of the professional and the personal.

Filipe Ribeiro de Meneses

A most interesting speaker was Mel's professor and supervisor in this endeavour. Filipe's interests include Portugese and Spanish history, decolonisation, and the First World War. He recently (2009) published a biography of Salazar.

His approach to Mel's work was to see it in the broader European context. Ireland was a new state which bucked the European trend towards fascism, establishing and maintaining a robust democratic political party system.

Mel's approach, on the other hand, was very much to concentrate on the purely domestic aspects of the evolution of political parties in the Free State.

In the event, the tension between these two approaches has produced a work that synthesises them and firmly sets the development of the Irish Free State in its European context. In doing so, it underlines the tremendous work done by the political leadership during this period.

Mel Farrell

When it came to Mel's own innings he recounted his fascination with party politics from an early age and he thanked so many people that my head was starting to spin. It subsequently spun a bit more when I read the acknowledgements in the book itself - a tribute to the thoroughness of Mel's research and to his modesty in his wide crediting of its fruits.

I was very pleased to see him acknowledging Lynne Pentlow, Gordon Brewster's grand-daughter for the use of the cartoons. In fact, I was very pleased to see the well chosen cartoons in the book.

After his sudden death in 1946, and given that his wife and children subsequently lived in England, Brewster had slipped from the Irish consciousness. It is good to see increasing recognition of his work in recent times.

I am only at an early stage in reading the book but I can already see that it is authoritative and very tightly written.

The Longford Contingent

There was a strong showing from Longford at the launch and the event merited a significant report in the local paper. The Longford connection also gave me the opportunity to tell my police cell story to an appreciative audience in the conversations that followed the official launch.

Mel with his parents Anne and Paddy

As I was ostentatiously sporting my camera I was pressed into service for some group photos. This one of Mel's parents, Anne and Paddy, made it to the current issue of the Longford Leader.

Anna Duignan

Mel had a special word of thanks to Anna Duignan, for her unfailing support, for her remarkable reserves of patience, and for her understanding of his desire to finish the book. Now that that is out of the way I think they'll be seeing a lot more of each other in the future.

1 comment:

Mel Farrell said...

I am glad you enjoyed the launch!

Best wishes,