Carlow College Lecturers launch new book about 1923 General Election

A new book exploring the 1923 General Election offering fresh and thought-provoking insights from leading scholars was launched at Carlow College on Monday, 13th November.

Published by UCD Press, Vying for Victory: The 1923 General Election in the Irish Free State co-edited by Carlow College, Lecturers in History, Dr Elaine Callinan and Dr Mel Farrell, and Dr Thomas Tormey of University College Dublin, offers a deeply researched, original, and fascinating analysis of the very first democratic step of a free Irish nation.

The launch, attended by a crowd of history enthusiasts, saw Carlow College President, Fr Conn Ó Maoldhomhnaigh highlight some of the media commentary around the election, before officially launching the book, stating: “It was my pleasure to be asked to launch Vying for Victory –  the 1923 General Election in the Irish Free State, edited by our staff members Dr Elaine Callinan and Dr Mel Farrell along with Dr Thomas Tormey of UCD. The book also includes an article by another staff member, Dr. Regina Donlon.”

Vying for Victory is the product of painstaking research and original analysis. What shines through from the contributors is their passion for their areas of research.  The publication provides insights into the General Election of 1923 which was undoubtedly a vital, democratic exercise in a very young State by a people who had lived through World War I, the Easter Rising (1916), The Conscription Crisis (1918), the Spanish Flu (1918), the War of Independence (1919-21), and the Civil War (1922-23).”

Speaking at the launch, Dr Elaine Callinan highlighted the significance of the 1923 General Election and the importance of research on the event, stating: “This is the moment of transition from revolution to democracy. The study and research of the political is important because it gives us a snapshot into how ordinary voters were persuaded by the propaganda of military leaders and political leaders. It is through their votes that we can get some indication of how they viewed the world they lived in.”

Dr Mel Farrell acknowledged the book was a dedication to those helping Ireland take its first step towards a democratic future, saying: “In August 1923, politics in the new Irish state moved decisively into a new era where the politics of the state were decided at the ballot box. For that reason, we have dedicated the book to those men and women who went forward for election in 1923 and played their part in consolidating democracy.”

The book is now available in book stores nationwide or via the UCD Press website

Carlow College President, Fr Conn Ó Maoldhomhnaigh, launches new book 'Vying for Victory:the 1923 General Election in the Irish Free State, co-edited by Dr Elaine Callinan, Dr Mel Farrell and Dr Thomas Tormey (absent)

About the book

The 1923 General Election marks the true beginning of modern Irish democracy. Born in blood, the new Irish Free State was set on course to become a remarkably stable democracy in the late 1920s and early 1930s, in stark contrast to the rise of dictatorships across Europe. The Irish public had an opportunity to cast their judgement on who they wanted to govern their new free state, and cast their opinion on the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty, even though it had been ratified in January 1922. A record 376 candidates stood for election, so every seat was contested – another first in Irish electoral history.

Vying for Victory: The 1923 General Election in the Irish Free State unifies writings by leading scholars on various aspects of the 1923 election. It offers fresh and thought-provoking insights rooted deeply in original archival research. The Cumann na nGaedheal Party’s ‘safety first’ election campaign; the importance of the election for Éamon de Valera; the perspectives of the Labour and Farmers’ Parties; the propaganda and electioneering tactics deployed by the various parties, and newspaper coverage of the election, amongst many other areas, are all richly explored. The book takes a forensic look at the end of the Irish Civil War and the August 1923 Election in a wider European context; the Catholic Church’s attitude to the election; the roles of women in the 1923 election; and the engagement of the Irish diaspora in North America.

Vying for Victory offers a deeply researched, original, and fascinating analysis of the very first democratic step of a free Irish nation. It will be a valuable resource to Irish history enthusiasts, as well as students and scholars of Irish history. Overall, the August 1923 election marked a turning point in Irish politics, establishing a competitive party system and solidifying Irish democracy. It allowed voters to express their views on the treaty and the new state’s direction while also reflecting broader socio-economic concerns.  Vying for Victory: The 1923 General Election in the Irish Free State aims to fill a gap in the existing historiography by providing a comprehensive overview of the August 1923 General Election, which was a crucial moment in Irish history.

Published by UCD Press, available nationwide. RRP €25.00/ £20.00 ISBN 9781910820704

About the authors

Elaine Callinan obtained her PhD from Trinity College Dublin and has published in the field of Irish electoral politics. She is currently lecturer of modern Irish history at Carlow College, St Patrick’s.

Mel Farrell has published widely on the politics of the Irish Free State. He is currently lecturer in Irish history at Carlow College, St Patrick’s.

Thomas Tormey holds a PhD from Trinity College Dublin and is an expert in the Decade of Centenaries. He has worked as Historian-in-Residence for Louth County Council and currently tutors at UCD.

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