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Theresa May talks of importance of marking centenary anniversary of first female MP - an Irish republican who never took her seat

Theresa May said it is "important" to mark the centenary anniversary of the first female MP elected to Westminster next year. Picture by PA Wire
John Monaghan

WESTMINSTER is facing a tricky centenary celebration next year after Theresa May said it was "important" to mark the anniversary of the first female MP to be elected to the Commons

The British prime minister did not refer to the first MP by name when she responded to a question about the role of women in parliament from the Loughborough MP, Conservative Nicky Morgan, last week.

But an event to mark the occasion could prove awkward as the first MP was abstentionist Irish republican Constance Markievicz, the revolutionary suffragette who played a leading role in the Easter Rising.

Mrs May told the House of Commons: "It is important that we mark this centenary next year and recognise the role that woman have played in this house."

As a member of Sinn Féin, Countess Markievicz never took her seat following her election to Westminster in 1918 as MP for Dublin St Patrick's and instead went on to serve in the first Dáil as Minister for Labour.

Two years previously, she had been appointed second-in-command to Michael Mallin at St Stephen's Green during the Easter Rising and is said to have kissed her revolver before handing it over to the British officer when surrendering.

Countess Markievicz was the only woman to be court martialled in the aftermath and was sentenced to death, but was spared "solely and only on account of her sex" according to the written court verdict.

Legislation allowing women to stand for election to Westminster was only introduced a few months before Countess Markievicz's successful campaign.

A year later, in December 1919, Nancy Astor became the first woman to take her seat as an elected MP.

Mrs Morgan is involved in the Vote100 series, a parliamentary committee set up to celebrate the history of women at Westminster.

A major exhibition, called 'Voice and Vote', is to be held at Westminster Hall during the summer of 2018 and will be the culmination of a four-year programme of activities.

Neither Mrs Morgan nor Mrs May responded to requests to clarify whether they believed Countess Markievicz's election specifically should be marked.

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