Following the general election of December 1918, and to keep a manifesto promise, Sinn Féin's elected representatives refused to take their seats in the House of Commons in Westminster. Instead they decided to form a national assembly in Ireland. The Members met in public as Dáil Éireann for the first time in the Mansion House on Tuesday, 21 January 1919, the day on which the War of Independence broke out.
The business of the day, which received extensive coverage in the press, featured a number of carefully planned set pieces designed to draw attention to the Members’ agenda of self-determination. They included a declaration of independence and a message to the free nations of the world, both of which were read in Irish, French and English, as well as the adoption of the Democratic Programme, which was a declaration of economic and social principles, and a resolution to send three Members to the Versailles Peace Conference.