Today in Ireland we are voting in a general election to elect people we wish to represent us in the Dáil. Voting is something we take for granted. As citizens of our country, we are entitled to vote in our parliamentary elections.
That was not always so. Many readers may be surprised to discover that they were probably personally acquainted with people who did not have the vote in this country, for it was only in 1922 that all citizens over the age of 21 were enfranchised.
From the early 1700’s voting rights depended on the value of a person’s property holdings and their religion. Certain Protestant property holders with a freehold of 40 shillings (40 shillings = £2 ) were allowed to vote. In 1793 Catholics with a freehold of 40 shillings were included. Then in 1829 all freeholders with a freehold of less than £10 lost the right to vote. Various reform acts were introduced that extended the eligibility to vote, but it was not until 1918 that men aged over 21 years were given the vote in the UK. (Ireland was a part of the U.K at this time). Some women over 30 were also given the right to vote at this time, and among those who availed of this franchise was Anna Haslam. Anna was a Cork born Quaker and a veteran suffragette aged 89 who, some 40 years earlier had started a women’s suffrage movement. Anna cast her first vote in the 1918 elections.
In 1922 , the Irish Free State constitution extended the franchise to all citizens over the age of 21.
As recently as 1967 in Northern Ireland, there were still calls for universal suffrage as the right to vote was still vested in property ownership, which automatically excluded many poorer people, the majority of whom were catholics.
So today, when you enter your Number 1 and perhaps your Number 2 and 3 and 4 and 5 and so on, on your ballot paper, you might pause to think that a couple of generations ago, you may not have had the privilege. Your franchise has been hard-won, so use it well !
You may read more about the amazing Anna Haslam at this site.
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