The German Arms Plot 1918 and the Mansion House Meeting, 1918

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On Friday 17 May 1918 the British government ordered the arrest and imprisonment of all leading members of Sinn Fein. They claimed they were involved in a plan to import arms from Germany. Among those arrested were Countess Markievicz, Eamon de Valera, Arthur Griffith and W.T. Cosgrave. They were quickly removed from Dublin and lodged in prisons across Wales and England. The arrests did dislocate Sinn Fein’s organisation but did not paralyse it; for example, Michael Collins was one of those who avoided capture.

Following on from the conscription crisis in April 1918, the German Plot arrests provided another issue for the republican movement to rally around, particularly the injustice of the prisoners being held without charge.

On the 27th of September 1918, Áine Ceannt presided over a protest meeting at the Mansion House. Addressing it in both Irish and English, Áine called for the government to release the prisoners at once. She was a founder member of Cumann na mBan, deeply involved in the Irish language movement and republican politics and was the widow of the executed 1916 leader Eamon Ceannt. The meeting was a remarkable cross-section of the nationalist movement and illustrated the continuing high profile of women in the politics of the time. Letters of support from the Bishop of Killaloe and Irish Parliamentary Party MP Timothy Healy were read out while William Smith O’Brien, Cathal O’Shannon, Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, Eoin MacNeill, Countess Josephine Plunkett, George Gavin Duffy, Muriel MacSwiney and Alderman Thomas Kelly were all in attendance.

De Valera escaped from Richmond prison in February 1919 and the British government finally bowed to public pressure, releasing the remaining prisoners in March. By then, the war of independence had broken out and Ireland was gripped by the insurgency that the government had hoped to avoid by arresting the leaders in the first place.

Portrait of Eamonn Ceannts Family

Bernard Kelly, Historian in Residence, Dublin City Library and Archive.

Dublin City Council Historians in Residence are available to meet groups and schools, give talks, walks etc, run history book clubs and advise on historical research.


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