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Cathedral, and a meeting in the City Hall, at which the principal orator (Major M‘Bride) said: *We will not tolerate the interference of England or any other foreign country in our affairs. This war has nothing to do with Irishmen; they should stay at home. Let Englishmen do their own fighting and get killed and be damned if they wish. . . . Ireland has only one foe; and that is England. The Boer flag has fallen from our hands at present, but we hope in the near future to take it up in our own island and never let it drop until we have swept every vestige of the Empire to Hell.'
The dangerous character of the movement did not consist in words only. Early in 1915 the Police ascertained that money was coming in freely not only from America but also from Germany. At Easter 1915 Mr Redmond held a great review of his Volunteers in Dublin. It was a striking sight, though perhaps not for the reason that its promoters intended. At the time when the Ulster Division was preparing to start for France, but the 16th Division—the Irish Brigade' as it was called—was kept back because its numbers were not complete, there were gathered together some 20,000 young men who positively refused to join the Army or even to place themselves under the authority of the War Office for home defence. And Mr Redmond, when addressing them, did not venture to refer to the subject of recruiting except in a few passing remarks. In fact, whilst the Unionists throughout Ireland were straining every nerve for the cause of the Empire, the policy of the moderate Nationalists was, so far as possible, to ignore the war altogether. Their position was well expressed in Mr Redmond's paper, the
National Volunteer,' for Jan. 2, 1915 : • Whilst the whole face of Europe is darkened by the tragic incidents that mark the Titanic struggle between the mighty Powers, Ireland stands out in confident expectancy, awaiting her enfranchisement.'
The anti-recruiting agitation (which had been in existence for several years) now became more violent. Placards were posted on walls and leaflets distributed broadcast, denouncing the British Army and anyone who joined it. Anti-recruiting meetings were held openly. It was impossible for the Crown to take proceedings on
a serious charge under the Defence of the Realm Act, because, by the Amending Act, accused persons had the right of demanding trial by jury, and it was soon found that, however clear the evidence might be, no jury would convict. The utmost that could be done was to bring some lighter charge which might be dealt with by a magistrate. Yet even then a difficulty arose, in consequence of the fact that the Government had, during the last ten years, appointed to the Magisterial Bench men of no local standing and practically of no principle. When a charge was brought at Cork last February, it was found that one of the Justices on the Bench had a few days previously stated in public that, so long as they were bound up with that accursed Empire,' they would be on the verge of starvation. It is needless to add that the charge was dismissed, the Resident Magistrate dissenting. When some leaders of the Irish Volunteers were ordered by the military authorities to leave Ireland and reside for a time in England, a monster meeting was held at the Mansion House in Dublin to protest against this banishment’; and something like a riot broke out in the streets. Even if a man was sent to jail for a short time, he was on his return hailed as a patriot and a martyr. Amongst those thus sentenced was the late F. Sheehy Skeffington. Imitating the suffragettes, he refused to take food, and was at once released under the 'Cat and Mouse Act.' He ostentatiously violated all the provisions of that Act; the Government submitted tamely. He then went on an anti-British lecturing tour in America; on his return last January a meeting was held in his honour, at which he said:
· The Germans in America were not much in touch with the Irish before the war, but now they have profited so much from Irish advice and assistance that their opinion of the Irish is very high. The Irish in America, as far as they are organised and articulate, are entirely pro-German, and are acting in close union with the Germans. One of the leading men in opposition to the Anglo-French loan was Jeremiah O'Leary, a man who has done much to wipe away the stain that has recently come on the name of O'Leary.'
(This, of course, was in reference to Lieutenant O'Leary, V.C.) He concluded by expressing the hope that Ireland
would before long become a cooperative Commonwealth, in which the best elements of American and German civilisation would be blended. The audience (says the
Irish Volunteer ') might have been composed of IrishAmericans, their sentiments were so anti-British; at one time a voice cried out, "Gott strafe England,' and the sentiment was loudly applauded.
One thing which all Nationalists have steadily and successfully opposed is anything in the nature of conscription. When Ulster was ready and anxious to bear the same burden as Great Britain, meetings were being held all over the South, at which resolutions were passed pledging all present to resist conscription by force. In October 1915 it was feared that the Conscription Act might include Ireland. Every berth in every steamer leaving Ireland for America was taken for weeks in advance. Some young men, unable to obtain passages, crossed to Liverpool, intending to embark there. The companies refused to take them; they returned defeated. Dr O'Dwyer, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Limerick, wrote an indignant letter protesting against the insults to which they had been subjected by a brutal English mob, and pointing out that they were acting within their rights, as the war was England's and not Ireland's, and the cause was one for which Connaught peasants did not care a pin. The Bishop's attitude was formally approved by the Limerick Corporation and other Nationalist bodies.
With one section of the Party hostile and another indifferent, it was natural that recruiting in the South and West should be limited. A vigorous recruiting campaign was started by Lord Wimborne, in which all parties were urged to participate. Innumerable meetings were held; but those who attended them noticed that they lacked the fervour of Sir E. Carson's Ulster meetings. In January last the returns were published, and showed the following figures : Province.
Population. Recruits since
49,760 Leinster .
Ulster had, therefore, supplied more recruits than all the rest of Ireland ; next came Leinster, where there is a large Unionist minority ; Connaught, which is practically entirely Nationalist, had sent hardly any. Mr Redmond at once pointed out that of the Ulster recruits 13,635 were Roman Catholics. Taking his figures as correct, they show that three-eighths of the total number of recruits were Ulster Protestants; and, although he did not refer to the fact, it is well known that many Protestants from the South had also enlisted—the 10th Division alone contains 8500. Hence we arrive at the remarkable fact that fully half the Irish recruits are Protestants. Religious and political divisions in Ireland follow the same lines so closely, that it is safe to say, therefore, that half the recruits have been Unionists. Yet the figures are being used as an argument for Home Rule !
As the income-tax rose, the advanced section of the Nationalists urged with increasing vehemence that Ireland should not be compelled to bear any additional taxation caused by the war. In January last, a monster meeting was held in the City Hall, Cork, to protest against employers applying economic conscription to their employees, and to discuss the question of taxation. A number of priests and local politicians were on the platform. The Rev. M. O'Flanagan, in the course of a long speech in which he derided the British farce at the Dardanelles and the wild-goose chase at Baghdad, and said that, if the Germans were to invade Ireland, they would be no worse than the English, expressed a hope that Ireland would be an independent country in alliance with Germany; adding that 'unless England altered a great deal, Ireland would be an enemy on that day, and her harbours might become submarine bases from which they could rush out and destroy the commerce of England, and starve that country in a few months. This sentiment was greeted with enthusiastic applause.
When matters had come to this pass, thoughtful men realised that an outbreak was imminent, and implored the Government to take precautions; but their warnings were treated with contempt. Down to the moment of the outbreak, the Government continued the policy of endeavouring to satisfy the demands of the Nationalists.
An instance of this occurred in connexion with the Gaelic Athletic Association, one of the most powerful of the Societies which work for the de-Anglicising of Ireland.' Any one who joins the British Army, or plays, or even is a spectator at, any 'foreign game,' such as Rugby football, is expelled. When the tax on amusements was proposed, the Association resolved not to pay it. As their official organ said:
"The tax will be resolutely opposed on solid business grounds as well as from the inherent distaste of its members to act as a tax-collecting agency for any foreign government, now or at any future time. . . . Let the dirty work be done by those who require the toll.'
A deputation accordingly waited on Mr McKenna, who at once added a clause to the Bill exempting from the payment of the tax any gatherings held for the purpose of reviving national pastimes. Hence, if some young men at Belfast hold a football match under Rugby rules, the tax will be imposed; but at the matches for Gaelic football, which are held every Sunday throughout the country, nothing will be paid to the foreign Government.'
Throughout the winter and spring, preparations for a rising went on openly and without disguise. Newspapers which preached treason were sold in the shops and streets. Some of these papers showed marked ability; many of the writers were University professors and teachers at High Schools. Here are
some typical extracts :
"To the spirit fostered and spread and strengthened by such organisations as the Gaelic League, Sinn Fein, the Gaelic Athletic Association, the Irish Volunteers, Cumann na mBann, the Citizen Army, and Na Fianna Eireann-the spirit of '98, the spirit of Young Ireland, the spirit of Fenianism, Ireland owes her salvation during the past year; and the least return Ireland can make, now that she is once more swinging back to her true attitude towards the ancient and the ONLY enemy, is to plant their banner in every corner of her “four green fields" and ask all her children to take their place in the Army of Freedom, of which the societies I have named are so many regiments. Thus will she make ready for the big and final fight that is sure to come-sooner, perhaps, than many of us think.'-'Fianna,' October 1915.