TWO SLIGO sisters turned what should have been a routine win into a rare defeat for a famous future British Prime Minister....and all because of how barmaids were treated in the battle against booze.
The little known detail is highlighted in a recent new book ''Eva Gore-Booth: An image of such politics,'' published by Manchester University Press.
It was in Manchester itself -- a city this week both engulfed by and divided by football -- that Gore-Booth and her sister, Constance, secured the defeat of no less a candidate than Winston Churchill. His campaign team included another future Prime Minister, David Lloyd George.
Liberals in 1908 moved to amend the licensing laws, which dated back to 1828. They planned to curb opening hours and licence transfers and to give local judges powers to refuse licence renewals if pubs employed women as barmaids.
Eva Gore-Booth was having none of it and with a couple of close allies, including her partner Esther Roper, she established the Barmaids' Political Defence League in March 1908.
Within a month Herbert Asquith became Prime Minister in England and his reshuffle included a promotion for young Winston Churchill.
However, it was common practice that MPs proposed for promotion had to resign their seats and fight a bye election.
In context the same system in Sligo would have meant that, for example, John Perry would have required to resign his Dail seat and fight a bye election once his promotion to Ministerial rank was mooted in 2011.
Two years earlier, in 1906, Churchill had secured a 62% majority over the same candidate he was now facing. It seemed a cakewalk.
The Gore-Booth sisters took the treatment of barmaids to the centre of the campaign. The planned new laws sought to outlaw, in one Bishop's words, ''the natural attractions of a young girl'' to be used behind bars to sell liquor.
Labour backed the Liberals in this view: The lives of barmaids often ended in ''drunkenness, immorality, misery and frequently suicide,'' they said.White Horses
The Gore-Booths campaign wagon was a carriage drawn by four white horses with (later) Madame Markievicz cracking the whip through the streets of Manchester. The roof of the carriage was used a platform for speeches.
''I have come over from Ireland to help because I am a woman,'' said Markievicz, asking voters to support the Tory outsider. Of the three candidates, ''he is the only one who takes a straight and decent view of the barmaids' question.''
Churchill was defeated by 529 votes -- a swing of 66% in two years. He had to move to a Scottish constituency for the next 14 years, including World War One in which he played a pivotal political role.
Within months of the 1908 bye election upset, there was a massive revolt in the House of Commons against the proposed amendments with 83% of MPs voting against.
The irony was that men who spent pay packets in pubs were principal targets of the new laws, which had been a success in Glasgow six years earlier.Rare Photo
The new book is written by Sonja Tiernan, who also devotes three pages to her subject in the May/June issue of ''History Ireland'' magazine -- including a rare photo from the Lissadell Collection of the sisters taken in London circa 1898.
Finally, although Sligo Borough Council has a Left majority it has never moved to offer any public recognition of the political or literary achievements of Eva Gore-Booth, who has been subject of over a dozen political studies.
Constance Markievicz was conferred a Freeman of the Borough 95 years ago and was smuggled into Lissadell later that same night.