Each month, the Oireachtas Library & Research Service exhibits selected treasures from the Oireachtas collection in a display case in Leinster House.

With most staff working from home due to Covid-19, our historical document display is digital only for now.

Portrait of Daniel O'Connell

October 2020

This month we are exhibiting John O’Connell’s Repeal Dictionary, published 175 years ago by the Loyal National Repeal Association. Though officially titled ‘Part 1’, a second part was never compiled, so the politically charged dictionary only runs from A (for Absenteeism) to M (for Murder).

Cartoon despicting a Russian bear and British lion playing cards for the crown of India. An Irish man advises the bear that the lion has a weak hand. The bear has won all the tricks so far.

September 2020

This month we are looking at attitudes to imperialism in its collection of Irish nationalist cartoons from the 1880s.

Two imperial enterprises of note in the 19th century were the so-called "Scramble for Africa" and the "Great Game". The latter term refers loosely to the diplomatic and military confrontations between Britain and Russia in central Asia, where Britain was keen to prevent Russian interests from encroaching on India. The "Scramble for Africa" denotes the period between the 1880s and 1914 when European countries partitioned about 90% of the African continent.

Restoration of Order in Ireland, August 1920

August 2020

This month we mark 100 years since the passing of the Restoration of Order in Ireland Act (ROIA) by exhibiting a copy of the associated regulations. This set of regulations has handwritten amendments on the front cover and was kept in the office of Under-Secretary John Anderson at Dublin Castle.

ROIA essentially extended regulations under the Defence of the Realm Act 1914 (DORA). This wartime emergency legislation gave the government enormous social and economic control over civilians. Most controversially it allowed for the internment and court martial of civilians who acted or were planning to act in violation of national security.

An 1831 artistic depiction of cholera as being spread through the air, a prevailing theory until the 1860s

July 2020

This month we are highlighting an unusual pamphlet in our collection. Titled Infection, the document was originally published in 1867 but was re-issued by the author – Sir J. Clarke Jervoise – in 1882.

The pamphlet contains a passionate argument against the use of quarantine for the control of disease. For Clarke Jervoise, an MP at the time of the pamphlet’s first publication, the cruelty of isolation, particularly for the poor or elderly, was simply not worth the suffering.

Drawing of Susan O'Donnell, heading: "Supplement given away with the WEEKLY FREEMAN of October 13th, 1883. Price Three Half-Pence"

Susan O’Donnell

June 2020

This month we are highlighting a digital collection of political cartoons from the late 19th century. The Library has over 600 digitised cartoons from the nationalist newspapers Weekly Freeman, Weekly News and United Ireland that were held in the library of the chief secretary’s office in Dublin Castle. The cartoon on display shows Susan O’Donnell, the "wife" of Patrick O’Donnell, a Fenian sympathiser who shot dead the police informer James Carey in 1883.

1884 drawing of three ladies enjoying tea, entitled "A cup that cheers"

Currier & Ives (1884). A cup that cheers / Courtesy of the Library of Congress

May 2020

This month we are taking a look at an address by Dr. E. D. Mapother to the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland in 1880. The speech was published and bound with other pamphlets as part of the reference library of the Chief Secretary’s Office in Dublin Castle.

The speech offers a fascinating overview of public health conditions in Ireland in the late 19th century.

Engraving of the facade of Mercer's Hospital, 1762

April 2020

This month, we’re taking a look at a 1762 edition of The Dublin Magazine, a journal that ran for just a few years. The Dublin Magazine was a miscellany of articles on topics such as history, geography, medicine, literature, current and political affairs. This edition even carried an account and picture of a "remarkable machine for flying", on page 549.

Engraving portrait of General Hoche, inscription: General Lazarus Hoche, late commander of the French troops which attempted to invade this kingdom last winter

March 2020

This month the Oireachtas Library is exhibiting a 1797 print of General Lazare Hoche. Hoche was the commander of an attempted French invasion of Ireland in December 1796.

The newly formed French Republic believed that Ireland would be an ideal place from which to launch an invasion of England. Several members of the revolutionary Society of United Irishmen, including Theobald Wolfe Tone, travelled to France to assure leaders that hundreds of thousands of Irish people would be willing to support them.

19th century cartoon depicting Ensign Smith on the streets of Chester, with the text: "On his way to the Castle he encounters some suspicious characters"

February 2020

This month the Oireachtas Library is exhibiting an unusual cartoon book about the unsuccessful Fenian plot to raid Chester Castle on 11 February 1867. The story depicts Ensign Smith as he reports for duty at Chester Castle, where he gets drunk, dreams about defeating the Fenians and then heads home to a family christening.

Engraving of a southwest view of Galway town, 1820

January 2020

This month the Oireachtas Library is marking 200 years since the publication of James Hardiman’s renowned history of Galway by exhibiting our first edition copy in the Leinster House display case.

Line drawing of locomotive on the Dublin and Kingstown railway

December 2019

This month the Oireachtas Library is marking 185 years since the first passenger railway in Ireland – the Dublin and Kingstown Railway - by displaying a pamphlet by James Pim, Jr., a key figure behind the railway’s development. Addressing Member of Parliament Frederick Shaw, Pim discusses the challenges and opportunities of implementing a national railway in Ireland.

Line drawing of a wild potaot plant, 19th century

November 2019

This month the Oireachtas Library is marking Science Week by displaying Robert Thompson’s 1847 report on experiments to cure the blight that had been destroying potato crops throughout America and Northern Europe. The effect had been devastating in Ireland, where the majority of the population was reliant on the potato as the main source of food.

Cartoon showing an attempted eviction at Castleview, Co. Cork in 1886

October 2019

This month the Oireachtas Library is marking 140 years since the foundation of the Irish National Land League by displaying a cartoon showing an attempted eviction at Castleview, Co. Cork in 1886. The cartoon was included as a supplement in United Ireland, the nationalist weekly newspaper.

The late 1870s in Ireland saw poor weather and harvests that greatly affected small tenant farmers.

Cutting from Dublin Gazette 1919 announcing the prohibition of Dáil Éireann

September 2019

This month the Oireachtas Library is exhibiting a supplement to the Dublin Gazette from 11 September 1919, containing the Lord Lieutenant and Privy Council’s proclamation that “The Dáil Éireann” was considered a dangerous organisation and was now prohibited.

Since 1918 the government had been attempting to suppress the growing push for independence in Ireland by targeting nationalist organisations in a number of specified counties, including Sinn Féin, the Sinn Féin clubs, the Irish Volunteers, Cumann na mBan and the Gaelic League.

Painting of Queen Victoria as a young woman, 1845 / artist: Alexander Melville

Portrait of Queen Victoria by Alexander Melville, 1845

August 2019

This month the Oireachtas Library is marking the 170th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s first visit to Ireland by displaying a celebratory poem by John D’Alton. This unpublished poem was printed and submitted to the Irish Office in London by D’Alton himself and is now part of the historical collection at the Oireachtas Library.

Victoria brought Prince Albert and four of her children with her on her first visit to Ireland. The royal yacht arrived in Cobh (then Cove) on 2 August 1849 to an enthusiastic reception. The town was renamed Queenstown in her honour.

James Hack Tuke, 1819-1896

July 2019

This month the Oireachtas Library is displaying the 1883 report of the Tuke committee. This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of James Hack Tuke, an English Quaker remembered for his philanthropic work in the west of Ireland during the 1880s.

In the late 1870s a combination of bad weather, failed harvests and competition from cheap imports meant that Irish tenant farmers were suffering badly. By 1879 a famine situation had arisen.

Front cover of Ulysses, by James Joyce

June 2019

This month, to mark Bloomsday, the Oireachtas Library is taking a closer look at censorship in Ireland by exhibiting the Report of the Committee on Evil Literature from 1926. James Joyce’s novel Ulysses, now celebrated in an annual festival on 16 June, caused uproar when it was first published. Deemed obscene by many, the book was banned in the United States and Britain, with hundreds of copies burned.

Capital letter T decorated with image of a ship at sea

May 2019

Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland

This month the Oireachtas Library is highlighting one of the oldest books in our collection, Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland. The Library’s copy is the second edition, published in 1587, and was originally part of the library of the Chief Secretary at Dublin Castle.

full length portrait of Charles Talbot, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, 1817-1822

Charles Talbot, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland

April 2019

First report of the General Board of Health 1822

This month, to mark World Health Day on 7 April, the Oireachtas Library is displaying the First Report of the General Board of Health in Ireland in 1822. This report comes from the historical Dublin Castle Collection.

The second half of the 1810s had been marked by a severe period of famine and disease.

Political cartoon, 1919

Irish Fun cartoon, May 1918

March 2019

This month the Oireachtas Library is looking at the legacy of the Irish Parliamentary Party by displaying political cartoons from two issues of the periodical Irish Fun: A Tonic in Type.

Dating from October 1917 and May 1918, these cartoons mock the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP), which had been in marked political decline since 1916 and was the object of much satire for Sinn Féin periodicals like Irish Fun.

Cartoon from The Shamrock magazine, 1919

February 2019

This month the Oireachtas Library is remembering Eamon de Valera’s escape from Lincoln jail by exhibiting a copy of The Shamrock magazine from February 1919. The satirical cartoon on the cover shows the Home Secretary, Edward Shortt, searching for his "German Plot", which is depicted as a dog with its “TALE cut SHORTT”.

Arthur Griffith

Arthur Griffith / Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland

December 2018

This month the Parliamentary Library is displaying a copy of Arthur Griffith’s pamphlet entitled The Resurrection of Hungary: A Parallel for Ireland, which was published in 1904. According to the historian Brian Maye, Griffith was struck by the parallel he saw between Hungary and Ireland – two small countries linked with great empires. He believed that the history of Hungary contained an important lesson for the Ireland of his own time.

Supreme Allied Commander Ferdinand Foch and military representatives after signing the Armistice on 11 November 1918

Supreme Allied commander Ferdinand Foch and military representatives after signing the Armistice on 11 November 1918

November 2018

This month the Parliamentary Library is marking the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War by exhibiting the first interim report of the Committee on the Interpretation of the Term “Period of the War”. This is from the Dublin Castle collection, which was transferred to the Library in the 1920s from the Chief Secretary’s office. The committee had been established by the Ministry of Reconstruction, which itself was tasked with planning for the end of the war.

Report of the Currency Commission 1929

October 2018

This month the Oireachtas Library is marking Budget 2019 by displaying a file of material relating to budgets, estimates and expenditures made between 1923 and 1924. The file is from the Oireachtas archival material collection held by the Oireachtas Library & Research Service.

The file displays a note from the then Ceann Comhairle, Michael Hayes TD, on the procedure to be followed in dealing with budget resolutions and the Finance Bill.

Report of the Currency Commission 1929

September 2018

This month the Oireachtas Library is marking 90 years since the first Irish state banknotes were entered into circulation. On display is the 1929 report of the Currency Commission, which had been established to oversee the production and issue of the new currency.

British notes and coins continued in circulation for several years after the foundation of the Free State. Irish trade and finance was linked extensively to the United Kingdom, and the emphasis on maintaining good ties and stability in the economy meant that the rollout of a national currency was not a particularly urgent priority for the new government.

Richard Kirwan

Richard Kirwan / From a drawing in Dublin Magazine December, 1812

August 2018

Given the recent atypical Irish weather, in August we took a look back at the early days of scientific weather observation in Ireland. We exhibited a copy of A Comparative View of Meteorological Observations Made in Ireland (circa 1793). This paper, which was read by Richard Kirwan at the Royal Irish Academy on 2 February 1793, is a daily record of the weather in Ireland during the years 1789 and 1790. It is included in a volume entitled Kirwan’s essays and sundries others and was acquired by the Houses of the Oireachtas Library in the 1920s.

William Smith O'Brien

Portrait of William Smith O’Brien / Artist unknown

July 2018

In August, to mark the 170th anniversary of the Young Irelander rebellion, we displayed the report of the trial of William Smith O’Brien. The report is one of several bound 19th century trial proceedings transferred to the Oireachtas Library in the 1920s from the Chief Secretary’s Office in Dublin Castle.

William Smith O’Brien was a descendant of Brian Boru, and an MP. He became a passionate advocate of repeal of the Act of Union in the House of Commons, joining Daniel O’Connell’s Repeal Association in 1843.

Detail from an image of Sir Horace Plunkett addressing the Convention

Image courtesy of the National Library of Ireland

June 2018

In June, we exhibited a copy of the Report of the Proceedings of the Irish Convention published in 1918. The report was included in the Chief Secretary of Ireland’s library collection at Dublin Castle which was acquired by the Oireachtas Library in the 1920s.

May 2018

In May 2018, we exhibited a copy of a campaign speech delivered by Father Michael O’Flanagan at Ballyjamesduff, Co. Cavan on Sunday 26 May 1918. O’Flanagan was speaking in support of Arthur Griffith, the president of Sinn Féin, who was standing for election as an MP in the Cavan East by-election. The speech was particularly demonstrative of the anti-conscription stance of Sinn Féin, a sentiment that set them apart from the faltering Irish Parliamentary Party and helped them sweep to victory in the general elections later that year.

Detail from The Police Gazette or Hue-and-Cry, 25 March 1921

Thomas Johnson / Image courtesy of the National Library of Ireland

April 2018

In April 2018, we exhibited a copy of the Irish Labour Party general election manifesto published in September 1918. Despite the preparation of this manifesto, the Labour Party did not take part in the general election of 1918 or the parliamentary elections of 1921. This decision was taken to facilitate a clear-cut decision by the electorate on the national question and to avoid the possibility of a split in the labour movement which was organised on an all-Ireland basis.

Detail from The Police Gazette or Hue-and-Cry, 25 March 1921

Roderick "Rory" O’Connor

March 2018

In March 2018, we showed an Irish issue of The Police Gazette or Hue-and-Cry from 25 March 1921. This issue illustrates the turmoil in Ireland at the time, following a sharp escalation of violence in the War of Independence at the end of 1920. The list of wanted "criminals" includes IRA leaders Michael Collins, Richard Mulcahy and Cathal Brugha along with the thief of a pony and cart in Co. Armagh and a man who embezzled a large sum from the Midleton Co-operative Society Stores in Co. Cork.

Portrait of William Molyneaux

Portrait of William Molyneux by Sir Godfrey Kneller

February 2018

2018 marks the 320th anniversary of the death of William Molyneux, Irish writer, philosopher, scientist and member of the Irish Parliament in Dublin. Shortly before his death in 1698 he published a controversial pamphlet entitled The Case of Ireland’s being bound by Acts of Parliament in England, Stated.

Cover of Ireland's Case Against Conscription, by Eamon de Valera

January 2018

The Conscription Crisis

In January 2018 we showed a copy of Ireland’s Case Against Conscription. The document was written by Éamon de Valera in 1918 and was published to support the campaign in Ireland to resist conscription during the First World War.

Copies of the Irish Constitutions

December 2017

Bunreacht na hÉireann and the Constitution of the Free State

In December 2017 we displayed early reprints of the modern Constitution of Ireland, Bunreacht na hÉireann, and its predecessor, the 1922 Constitution of the Free State.