In Larkin's absence, William X. O'Brien became the dominant figure in the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union and wielded considerable influence in the Labour Party. O'Brien also dominated the Irish Trade Union Congress. The Labour Party, led by Thomas Johnson from 1917, as successor to such organisations as D. D. Sheehan's (independent Labour MPs) Irish Land and Labour Association, declined to contest the 1918 general election, in order to allow the election to take the form of a plebiscite on Ireland's constitutional status (although some candidates did run in Belfast constituencies under the Labour banner against Unionist candidates). It also refrained from contesting the 1921 elections. As a result the party was left out of the Dáil Éireann during the vital years of the independence struggle, though Johnson sat in the First Dáil.
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