The handbill seen here, titled “How John D. Nugent Treated the men who helped the Dublin Strikers in 1913,” was printed prior to the 1918 general election in Ireland and encourages voters in the St. Michan’s district of Dublin to vote for Sinn Fein candidate Michael Staines. Staines had served as Quartermaster General in the GPO during the 1916 Easter Rising and gained public notoriety as being one of James Connolly’s stretcher bearers. He was arrested after the Rising and interned in Frongoch, where he served as Commandant of the prisoners and gained respect and notoriety among his fellow internees. After his release from prison, he began working for Sinn Fein and was elected Director of Supply on 27 October 1917.
John D. Nugent, Staines’ opponent in the 1918 general election, was an established member of the Irish Parliamentary Party and was a frequent collaborator with Joseph Devlin. Nugent had also been a member of Dublin Corporation since 1912 and the National Secretary of the Ancient Order of the Hibernians. He was known for his strong-arm tactics against socialists and for using his position within the Ancient Order of the Hibernians to try to influence other members of the Irish Parliamentary Party. The handbill seen here corroborates this belief as it states that a division of the Ancient Order of the Hibernians in Manchester had been suspended and then dissolved because they had collected money to help Dublin workers affected by the 1913 lock-out. Nugent was clearly looking to cut off any aid to the strikers as he had sided against the workers in the lock-out.
In later years, Nugent did little to win over the votes of workers as he was also alleged to have fired several of his employees for traveling to county Longford to campaign for Joseph McGuiness in the 1917 general election. This can be seen as a ploy by Nugent to aid the Irish Parliamentary Party candidate in the election by influencing the campaign. His efforts to intimidate workers into not campaigning for McGuiness may have been enough to sway the campaign slightly in favor of Sinn Fein – McGuiness won by a narrow margin of 37 votes.
Workers surely had not forgotten about Nugent’s past transgressions when it came time to vote for the St. Michan’s parliamentary seat in the 1918 general election. Staines won the seat by a wide margin of 7553 votes to Nugent’s 3996 votes. Nugent blamed the loss on weak campaigning due to ill health, but there were likely many other factors at play like the low public opinion of Nugent’s past actions and new voting rights – women over 30 and men between the ages of 21 and 29 were now able to vote for the first time. After his defeat, the crowd wished to boo over Nugent so that he could not give his conciliatory speech. Staines was forced to appeal to them to allow him to speak, which only further shows how much the public had grown to hate Nugent. Staines himself stated that he was proud to have been elected to represent the poor of St. Michans, and he would continue to serve as their representative throughout the War of Independence.
Sinn Fein candidates were successful in winning parliamentary seats throughout Ireland during the 1918 election. This handbill is a valuable piece of history as it showcases the campaign prowess that Sinn Fein possessed when pushing appealing to voters. By appealing to those voters who felt like the Irish Parliamentary Party candidates were out of touch with their current issues, Sinn Fein candidates were able to gain a majority of the seats up for election in 1918 and move Ireland one step closer to having a fully independent government.
1. Padraig Yeates, A City in Wartime: Dublin 1914-1918 (Dublin: Gill & MacMillan, 2011), 290.
2.Padraig Yeates, A City in Wartime: Dublin 1914-1918 (Dublin: Gill & MacMillan, 2011), 52.
3.Padraig Yeates, A City in Wartime: Dublin 1914-1918 (Dublin: Gill & MacMillan, 2011), 195.
4.Padraig Yeates, A City in Wartime: Dublin 1914-1918 (Dublin: Gill & MacMillan, 2011), 290-294.