The constituency was, in Irish republican theory, entitled to return one Teachta Dála (known in English as a Deputy) in 1918 to serve in the Irish Republic's First Dáil. Sinn Féin used the UK general election in 1918 to elect the Dáil. The revolutionary body assembled on 21 January 1919. The list of members read out on that day included everyone elected in Ireland. Only the Sinn Féin Deputies participated in the Dáil, but the other Irish MPs could have done so if they had chosen to adhere to the Republic.
The First Dáil, passed a motion at its last meeting on 10 May 1921, the first three parts of which make explicit the republican view.
That the Parliamentary elections which are to take place during the present month be regarded as elections to Dáil Éireann.
That all deputies duly returned at these elections be regarded as members of Dáil Éireann and allowed to take their seats on subscribing to the proposed Oath of Allegiance.
That the present Dáil dissolve automatically as soon as the new body has been summoned by the President and called to order.
The Second Dáil first met on 16 August 1921, thereby dissolving the First Dáil.
The constituency was a safe nationalist/republican seat throughout its existence, from 1885 to 1922. Only three of the thirteen elections held in the seat (nine at general elections and four at by-elections) were contested.
A Conservative in 1885 (who polled only 174 votes) and a Unionist in 1892 (who received a not much larger 314 votes), were the only candidates from other political traditions to contest the seat.
The most hotly contested election was the North Kilkenny by-election, 1890. This was the first parliamentary election to take place in Ireland after the Irish Parliamentary Party split into Parnellite and Anti-Parnellite factions, in early December 1890. The two factions each nominated a candidate. The Anti-Parnellite won, on a 2,527 to 1,362 vote.
1 Not an election, but the date of a party change. The Irish Parliamentary Party had been created in 1882, on the initiative of Charles Stewart Parnell's Irish National League. Both the IPP and the INL split into Parnellite and Anti-Parnellite factions, in December 1890. The Parnellites remained members of the Irish National League after the split and the Anti-Parnellites organised the Irish National Federation in March 1891. The two organisations and the United Irish League merged in 1900, to re-create the Irish Parliamentary Party.
2 Date of polling day. The result was declared on 28 December 1918, to allow time for votes cast by members of the armed forces to be included in the count (in contested seats).