Citizens in Conflict #8. In 1916 the Dublin Harbour constituency was represented at Westminster by Alfred (Alfie) Byrne MP. Dublin Harbour contained Mountjoy Ward, North Dock Ward, Rotunda Ward, (except a portion in the College Green constituency) and the portion of South Dock ward north of a line drawn along the centre of Great Brunswick Street. It also included the portion of Trinity Ward lying north of a line drawn along the centre of Great Brunswick street and the towns of Ringsend and Irishtown as well as sections of Beggar’s Bush. About 8,000 men had the vote in the constituency.Until his death in 1915 the local MP was William Abraham, aged 73, who lived in London, though originally from Limerick. Abraham’s background was in the Land League and he had been associated with craft unions in the 1880s, but those days were long behind him. Harbour contained a very large working-class population and trade unionist William O’Brien suggested that it was the ‘best Labour seat in Dublin and win it we must.’ James Connolly was suggested as a candidate. However Connolly declined to run and instead three nationalists contested the seat. Pierce O’Mahony, an old Parnellite, was one of the very few Home Rule MPs to have associated with the workers in 1913. Alfie Byrne, on the other hand, was the owner of the Verdon Bar, at 37 Talbot Street and a city councillor. He lived on the North Strand. and had been caricatured by Jim Larkin in the Irish Worker as ‘Alf Bung’ a man who entertained ‘slum landlords, scabs, prostitutes’ bullies … Hibs, Orangemen…the brothel-keeper (and) the white slaver’ in his pub. But Byrne won the election by 2,200 votes to O’Mahony’s 917. O’Mahony had strongly supported John Redmond and recruitment, while Byrne had opposed conscription, war-taxes and the war effort in general. He had shared anti-conscription platforms with James Connolly among others. The result is an indication that anti-war feeling was growing in Dublin.Image above: "Councillor Thos. Lawler and Alderman A. Byrne, who were before the firing line on Sunday and helped the wounded." Irish Independent, 29 July 1914 reporting on the shooting of three civilians at Bachelor's Walk on 26 July 2014, in the wake of the Howth gun-running (click to view larger image)The make up of a protest meeting in September 1915 at the Phoenix Park, shows the extent of cooperation between the various elements. Among those in attendance were Byrne, Thomas Farren president of the Trades Council, veteran separatist Henry Dixon, Sinn Féin’s Tom Kelly, The O’Rahilly, Councillor Lawrence O’Neill, James Connolly, feminist Hannah Sheehy-Skefffington, Piaras Beasley of the Volunteers and Larry Ginnell MP, nationalist MP for Meath.After the Rising Byrne involved himself in campaigning for prisoners, visiting internees in Britain as Cumann na mBan activist Brigid Foley remembered ‘we were entertained to lunch by Alfie Byrne in the House of Commons and to tea-with strawberries and cream- at Lyons’ Corner House. He came to the station with us and loaded us down with boxes of chocolates.’Nevertheless in 1918 Byrne lost his seat to Sinn Féin’s Phil Shanahan. However after independence he would have a long career in both local and national politics.AboutThis article is one in a series created by Dr Brian Hanley, historian-in-residence at Dublin City Library & Archive, to coincide with the exhibition 'Citizens in Conflict: Dublin 1916 / Éirí Amach sa Chathair: Baile Átha Cliath 1916', running at Dublin City Library & Archive from January to June 2016.Dublin Remembers 1916 Programme of Events | Hashtag: #Dublin1916
Citizens in Conflict #7. On paper there were nearly 3,000 British troops in Dublin on Easter Monday. But in reality the authorities were not prepared for immediate action. On Easter Sunday, only 400 British troops in Dublin were in ‘immediate readiness’ for action; 100 at each main barracks and a guard of six at Dublin Castle. Many officers were at the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse, while the commander of forces in Ireland, Major-General Friend, in London. His deputy Colonel H.V. Cowan, had a total of 2,385 men available, including those at races or on a day’s leave.Apart from 6th Cavalry Reserve regiment at Marlborough Barracks, every unit in the city was part of an Irish regiment. The 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment was at Richmond Barracks, the 10th Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers at the Royal Barracks, 3rd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles at Portobello Barracks. It was the 5th Royal Irish Lancers from Marlborough Barracks shot at in O’Connell Street.Image right: Postcard. "Irish Rebellion, May, 1916. Searching a hay-cart for rebels or ammunition." From Dublin City Library & Archive, Birth of the Republic Collection (click to view larger image)But once it became clear that serious trouble was in the offing, the military authorities suspended all civilian traffic on the Great Southern and Western Line. Between 1.17 and 5.30pm special trains brought 3,000 men from the Curragh to Dublin - all from Irish regiments. The Royal Irish Regiment were in action around the South Dublin Union, as were the Royal Dublin Fusiliers.However in the 3rd Battalion area on the southside most of the fighting was with regiments landed from Dún Laoghaire, particularly the Sherwood Foresters. The exception was units from the territorial ‘G.R.s’ who were confronted near Beggar’s Bush on Easter Monday.During the Rising Irish units of British Army suffered approximately 29 fatalities and 93 wounded, out of a total of 103 British Army fatalities and 93 wounded. Image above: Postcard. "Sinn Fein Rebellion, 1916. Sackville Street, Dublin." From Dublin City Library & Archive, Birth of the Republic Collection (click to view larger image)Browse and search the Birth of the Republic Collection online.AboutThis article is one in a series created by Dr Brian Hanley, historian-in-residence at Dublin City Library & Archive, to coincide with the exhibition 'Citizens in Conflict: Dublin 1916 / Éirí Amach sa Chathair: Baile Átha Cliath 1916', running at Dublin City Library & Archive from January to June 2016.Dublin Remembers 1916 Programme of Events | Hashtag: #Dublin1916
Citizens in Conflict #6. In the hugely successful movie Michael Collins, directed by Neil Jordan, Collin’s man in the police, Ned Broy, gives him access to the secret files of Dublin Castle. Broy did indeed secure access for Collins to secret archives, but this was in Great Brunswick Street police station rather than Dublin Castle. Here's Broy's account from the Bureau of Military History Witness Statements:‘After the Rising, an enormous mass of Sinn Féin literature was captured by the military and police from meeting places and homes of Volunteers for weeks after the Rising was over. All this literature, maps, etc., were stored in the Brunswick St. Detective Office. When the Volunteers began to reorganise in 1917, I gradually returned to them samples or copies of all documents, maps and publications which had been captured, which were of some help to them in picking up the treads of their organisation again.’‘During the time I was meeting Michael Collins in Foley’s, in the early stages, he often discussed with me the papers that I had been sending for the previous two years, which he referred to as their "correspondence course". In discussing these, it became obvious that he still did not understand the complete background of the detective organisation, and we decided that it would be necessary for him to go into the office and read the record books himself. From ten o’clock each night until six in the morning, it was usual for one man-mostly not of the political staff-to be on duty in the detective office, and that man had the cipher, in case telegrams arrived. It frequently happened that the detective, who was on weekend night duty, would have to go to the courts during the week, when he had cases. In that event, he would be relieved by someone for whatever night he required off duty, and I was frequently chosen for the single night’s duty like that. So, meeting Mick on a night in April, 1919, I was able to tell him that I would be on duty the following night from 10pm to 6am. We arranged that, at twelve o’clock, he would ring up to make certain that it was I who was on duty, as there were frequently last minute changes. He was to use the name "Field", and my name was to be "Long".‘The new building at Pearse St (Sic) had, of course, a brand-new set of keys, and there was a master-key, in case any of the other keys got lost. I made myself another master key, by filing one of the ordinary keys. The key would be necessary to open the secret room. In due course, about 12.15 a.m., Mick Collins arrived, accompanied by Sean Nunan. I had told him, whoever came with him, to be armed and also to have sticks, because one would never know what might go wrong. I duly let them in, showed them the back way and the yard door to Townsend St. in case anything happened, and gave them, the general lie of the land. No sooner had I done so than s stone came through the window. I was just wondering again if the British fate was going to take a hand. I looked at them, they looked at me. I told them to go into a dark passage and wait near the back door, in the shadow. On looking out on Great Brunswick St. I saw a British soldier in custody of a policeman. I opened the door and inquired of the constable what was wrong. He said: "This fellow is after throwing a stone in through the window." He took the soldier to the police station next door. I went back and told Mick what happened.'Michael stayed from about 12.15 till about 5 a.m. There were many reasons for his visit. He wanted to know the background for what he called the correspondence they had received from me, the exact degree of British knowledge as regards the Volunteers, Sinn Féin and other national organisations. Michael wanted to ascertain who, of their people, were known and, still more important, were not known. He wanted to try and gauge the mentality behind the records, and then to use the police secret organisation as a model, with suitable improvements and modifications, for Volunteer requirements. It was obvious that, sooner or later, these records would be taken to the castle because at nearly every hour of the day a ring would come to the office asking for particulars, in writing, of Suspect So-and-So. As a matter of fact, not very long afterwards, the books were taken to the Castle.'Amongst the papers captured were copies of all telephone messages received by G. Division during the week of the Rising in 1916. These telephone messages were bound in book form for the week, as was the usual practice in the office. Some of the messages were from loyal people, giving information as to where the Irish Volunteers had occupied positions in small numbers or where they had posted snipers on roofs or windows, but many exactly similar ones were received from persons who posed, then and afterwards, as sympathisers of the Volunteers. Collins had many a cynical laugh, after reading these, when listening to protestations of patriotism by some of the senders of the messages. Michael had taken this volume away with him the night he visited the secret archives in 1919 at No. 1 Great Brunswick St. Joe Reilly had had custody of this volume for some time, and twice the Auxiliaries had raided tow of his lodging places and accidentally failed on each occasion to find the volume. Joe used to say to me: “That damned old daybook of yours was twice nearly getting me shot.”AboutThis article is one in a series created by Dr Brian Hanley, historian-in-residence at Dublin City Library & Archive, to coincide with the exhibition 'Citizens in Conflict: Dublin 1916 / Éirí Amach sa Chathair: Baile Átha Cliath 1916', running at Dublin City Library & Archive from January to June 2016.Dublin Remembers 1916 Programme of Events | Hashtag: #Dublin1916
Citizens in Conflict #5. One of the most significant radical women's organisations in the pre-1916 period was Inghínídhe na hÉireann, (Daughters of Ireland) founded around 1900. Many of those who would come to prominence in Cumann na mBan, the Irish Citizens Army or in politics more generally had been members of the Inghínídhe. These included Maud Gonne, Helena Molony, Jenny Wyse Power, Máire Nic Shiubhlaigh and Marie Perolz.They emerged in the context of the Boer war campaign and protests at royal visits. Margaret Quinn explained that the organisation originated from the Committee formed to give children of Dublin a treat on the occasion of the Visit of Queen Victoria in 1900. The idea was to reward the children who had not consented to go to the Phoenix Park to cheer and wave to Queen Victoria. The treat was given in Clonturk Park. Many Inghínídhe meetings and tableaux took place at the Antient Concert Rooms (image below, click to view larger version) in Great Brunswick Street. The first headquarters of Inghínídhe was at 196 Great Brunswick Street. They later moved to North Great Georges Street.Mrs. M. Hyland-Lalor wrote: 'At Easter, 1901, Gaelic tableaux were presented at the Ancient (Sic) Concert Rooms... Miss Alice Milligan and "Ethna Carbery", the poetess, had much to do with the success of that venture. Dr Douglas Hyde and Seamus McManus were amongst the performers, the whole cast numbering more than one hundred persons.'Maggie Quinn 'Inghiní na hÉireann were the first to introduce Tableaux relating to Irish history. We showed them in the Antient Concert Rooms in Brunswick Street. Sinéad Flanagan (Mrs De Valera), Máire Ní Chillin, Alice Milligan, Anna Johnson (Eithne Carbery), Máire Ní Shiubhlaigh, Susan Varian, Helen Laird, Susan Mitchell, and I think, Ella Young and her sister May co-operated to make them a success as did all of the boys of our acquaintance... out of these tableaux grew the idea of the Irish Players.' (image below, click to view larger version)AboutThis article is one in a series created by Dr Brian Hanley, historian-in-residence at Dublin City Library & Archive, to coincide with the exhibition 'Citizens in Conflict: Dublin 1916 / Éirí Amach sa Chathair: Baile Átha Cliath 1916', running at Dublin City Library & Archive from January to June 2016.Dublin Remembers 1916 Programme of Events | Hashtag: #Dublin1916
Citizens in Conflict #4. The area in which the 3rd Battalion was to operate was a very large one and far more men were expected to be available then turned out to be the case.Battalion Commander: Éamon de Valera.Strength: Approximately 170 officers and men.Positions Held: Boland’s Bakery, Boland’s Mills, close by, the Dock Milling Company's Premises and adjoining the latter the Railway Locomotive Works, Barrow Street, the Dispensary, Clanwilliam House with its outposts at 25 Northumberland Road, the Parochial Hall, and Carrisbrooke House, Westland Row Railway Station, Railway Level Crossing at Lansdowne Road, builders' yard alongside Clanwilliam House, Horan’s Fort at the corner of Haddington Road and South Lotts Road, the railway line was held at many points between Westland Row Station and the Level Crossing, Guinness' Stores, many other stores and warehouses clustering round the docks and manned by snipers.Armament: Approximate figures 25 Long Lee-Enfield Magazine rifles, 80 Howth rifles, (single shot) 12 Martini rifles and some shot guns. The small number of grenades were crude and in action found useless, revolvers were possessed by many.Left: Commander: Éamon de Valera (click to view larger image).Battalion Headquarters: Boland's Bakery. It is also stated that Commandant de Valera used the dispensary as a headquarters. The Battalion's task was to organise positions in the Boland’s Mills Area to prevent entry into the city from the East and deny the use of the Railway Line to enemy transportation of troops from Dún Laoghaire. The main engagement was on Wednesday when the British finally succeeded in dislodging the Clanwilliam House garrison which permitted their troops to continue to Trinity College. No further encroachment was made into the positions although many minor attacks were launched. Both the British and the Volunteers were busily engaged in heavy sniping all week. The British posted M.G.s in commanding positions, i.e., Percy Place, Haddington Road Church, Beggars Bush Barracks from which many sorties were made. Communication with the GPO ceased about Thursday. On Wednesday or Thursday a party of 15 cyclists were sent from Jacob’s Factory to relieve the pressure on the defenders in this area, but the attempt was not a success due to the strong cordon of British in the vicinity. The Battalion surrendered at about 2pm on the following Sunday, 30 May.Westland Row Railway Station and railway line.Commanders: George Lyons and James Mallon.Strength: Approximately 12.Westland Row Station was occupied at about noon on Easter Monday. The party dismantled the signal box, cleared the platform, closed and barricaded the station by 6.30 pm on Monday. A trench was dug on the line about half way between the station and Boland's Bakery. The sleepers were destroyed at many points. On Wednesday the station proper was vacated, and positions taken up at the trench. During the week the party was mainly engaged in sniping. The officer in command of operations between the railway station and the Bakery was Capt. Seán McMahon. Small bodies of Volunteers manned the viaducts and were continually sniping the British preventing them from filtering into the rest of the Bn. Area.Mount Street Bridge and outposts.Right: Third Battalion Area (click to view larger image)Officer in command Lieut. Michael MaloneStrength: Initially about 13, and with reinforcements and withdrawals remained at 13.Distribution and occupation: Clanwilliam House: occupied about noon on Monday by George Reynolds and four others. One left that night, four reported from Battalion headquarters on Tuesday, one runner failed to return leaving a strength on Wednesday of seven.No. 25 Northumberland Road: Occupied about noon on Monday by four with Lieut. Malone in command, two dispatched to Battalion headquarters on Tuesday leaving a total of two.Carrisbroke House: Occupied by about three at noon on Monday and vacated the same day.The School: Occupied on Monday by two or three and vacated on Tuesday.Engagement: On Wednesday, 26 April at about 12.30 pm the 7th and 8th Battalions of the Sherwood Foresters, part of the two brigades that landed at Dún Laoghaire, were marching along Northumberland Road towards the city, when they were engaged by Malone's Volunteers. The total strength of the British was estimated at 2,000 but the strength of the advanced elements who were engaged was put at 800. The head of the column had passed No. 25 when the firing opened from all posts. A terrific battle followed. Lieut. Malone was killed in the evening and his companion succeeded in escaping. Clanwilliam House now bore the brunt of the fighting. At times British troops came under fire from other posts in the Battalion area, i.e., the builders' yard alongside the house, and the railway line. Repeated assaults on the house were repulsed and it was not till 8 pm when a one-pounder was brought into play that the garrison withdrew to headquarters, leaving George Reynolds, Dick Murphy and Patrick Doyle behind dead. The builders' yard party, about eight, withdrew to the dispensary at the same time, as did a small party alongside the builders' yard. General Maxwell in his report states that the British casualties were '4 officers killed, 14 wounded and 216 other ranks killed and wounded.'Railway Level Crossing, Lansdowne Road.The railway level crossing was occupied at about 12 noon on Easter Monday by five men with Seán Goulding in charge. On Monday night he received an extra four men and placed them in Judge Johnson's House, No. 60, Lansdowne Road. On Wednesday during the Mount Street Bridge engagement a party of British succeeded in reaching the railway line between this post and Horan's Fort. They came under fire from both positions and were forced to withdraw.'Horan's Fort.Horan's Fort was occupied on Monday at about noon by 12 men under Capt. O'Mara. This party engaged all British sorties from Beggars Bush Barracks and held a very strategic position. It engaged a party of British that gained the railway line on Wednesday and forced them to withdraw. O'Mara had about 5 men in occupation of a trench on the Rly. Line a short distance from the fort.'Boland's Mills.Boland’s Mills were occupied at about noon on Easter Monday morning by about 14 men under Lieut. Joseph Byrne. On Wednesday a party of British sent by Sandymount in an attempt to outflank the 3rd Battalion position, was met by the force in Boland’s Mills and driven back in disorder.Bolands’ Bakery.'Boland's Bakery was organised as Battalion headquarters and supply depot. C.A. System for reliefs for other posts was directed from it, and was not used as a base for offensive operations. Its defence was the task of Simon Donnelly.' (R. Henderson, WS 1686).The Distillery.A high and strong building dominating the entire area held three or four snipers. It was fired upon by the Gun Boat 'Helga' during the week and it is also stated that a naval gun on a horse lorry near Percy Place brought its fire to bear on it. The Distillery was presumed by the British to be the headquarters of the area because of the fact that the Tri-colour flag was floating on top of the building.Railway Workshops.The railway workshops were occupied about noon on Easter Monday by 12 men under Lieut. Guilfoyle. Two or three snipers were posted on the railway water tanks, while others, about seven, manned the railway wall facing in the direction of Mount Street Bridge. The remainder occupied the workshops. During the attacks on Clanwilliam House these men brought effective fire to bear on the British whenever they came on the bridge or approached from the blind side of the house along Warrington Place. On Thursday a particularly strong effort was made by the British, about 15 soldiers, to enter the workshops, and even attempted to dig in but were repulsed by a successful bayonet charge.'Guinness Stores.The Guinness stores were occupied on Thursday night by about 12 but vacated early next morning.AboutThis article is one in a series created by Dr Brian Hanley, historian-in-residence at Dublin City Library & Archive, to coincide with the exhibition 'Citizens in Conflict: Dublin 1916 / Éirí Amach sa Chathair: Baile Átha Cliath 1916', running at Dublin City Library & Archive from January to June 2016.Dublin Remembers 1916 Programme of Events | Hashtag: #Dublin1916Lecture SeriesDr Brian Hanley presents a three part lecture series in Dublin City Public Libraries during February and March 2016 examining in detail the lead up to the Rising, what really happened over those momentous days and its impact on future generations. Part of the Dublin City Council 1916/2016 Centenary Programme.
Citizens in Conflict #3. In 1914 thousands of Irishmen joined the British Army to fight in the Great War. They were motivated by a variety of reasons, some encouraged by their political leaders, others out of economic necessity. The huge casualties suffered in the first two years of the war greatly dampened enthusiasm for volunteering. By 1916 recruitment was slowing to a trickle and many would assume that the Easter Rising killed it off. But there are at least four intriguing cases of men who fought as Irish Volunteers in 1916 and who then subsequently joined the British forces and fought in the Great War.Patrick Dalton, from Gloucester Street in the heart of Dublin's inner-city, had joined the Volunteers just two weeks before the Rising, inspired by a speech by Thomas MacDonagh. Dalton fought in the General Post Office (GPO), was captured after the surrender but he was released from custody because of his youth. However his employer, Dockrell's of South Great Georges Street sacked him because of his involvement in the revolt. Dalton then emigrated to England, where he enlisted and spent four years in the British forces. Returning to Ireland in 1922 he joined the Free State Army.Above: Advertisement from Thom's Directory, 1917. (click to view larger image)Michael McCabe came from a republican family, his father being an Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) activist. He had been a member of Na Fianna and was involved in moving arms and ammunition in the run up to the Rising. He served at Roes Distillery during the Rising and also managed to escape internment by virtue of his age. McCabe also emigrated to England and joined up there, serving until 1922. On his return to Ireland he joined the Anti-Treaty Irish Republican Army (IRA), was captured early in the Civil War and interned in the Curragh. After his release he went back to England and later rejoined the British Army.Above: Na Fianna, newspaper photo, August 1913. (click to view larger image)John McQuaid from East Wall fought at Ballybough and the GPO. He was interned in both Knutsford and Frongoch until July 1916. Described by his commander Frank Henderson as 'a splendid Volunteer' McQuaid nevertheless then joined the British Army.Patrick O'Moore from Drumcondra had been a Fianna member and was wounded in the GPO. He was interned in Frongoch until July 1916 and after his release joined the British Army. O'Moore served with the Machine Gun Corps in France and was wounded and gassed. He deserted during 1920, returned to Ireland and joined the IRA. During the Civil War he enlisted in the Free State Army but also deserted from that and joined the Anti-Treaty IRA. O'Moore was subsequently interned.Discouraging recruitment to the British forces had been the policy of separatist organizations both before and after the Rising. Indeed sometimes men who joined the British Army were denounced by republicans as traitors. Yet these four Volunteers joined up after taking part in rebellion against the Empire.Above: Na Fianna, newspaper photo, 24 July 1915. (Click to view larger image)O'Moore claimed that he had asked permission from his Volunteer officers to join the British forces to secure further military training. However whatever sense that idea might have made in peacetime, by 1916 it was clear many recruits would come back dead or injured. It was certainly not a policy usually pursued by the Volunteers by this stage. Those men who had been in Na Fianna had also sworn oaths not to join the crown forces. It would be unfair to question these men's commitment to republicanism a century on. All of them received 1916 pensions, which would not have been awarded without evidence of their participation in the revolt. (McCabe actually applied for his while serving with the British Army in Africa!) But the very fact that they could make the decisions they did testifies to the confusing and complex times they lived in. It also should perhaps make us wary of assuming clear cut motivations for the thousands of men and women who took part in the revolution.AboutThis article is one in a series created by Dr Brian Hanley, historian-in-residence at Dublin City Library & Archive, to coincide with the exhibition 'Citizens in Conflict: Dublin 1916 / Éirí Amach sa Chathair: Baile Átha Cliath 1916', running at Dublin City Library & Archive from January to June 2016.Dublin Remembers 1916 Programme of Events | Hashtag: #Dublin1916Lecture SeriesDr Brian Hanley presents a three part lecture series in Dublin City Public Libraries during February and March 2016 examining in detail the lead up to the Rising, what really happened over those momentous days and its impact on future generations. Part of the Dublin City Council 1916/2016 Centenary Programme.
Citizens in Conflict #2. A controversial incident occurred on Easter Monday at Beggars Bush. The 1st Dublin Battalion Associated Volunteer Training Corps were part-time reservists, many of them middle-aged professionals. The ‘Gorgeous Wrecks’ as they were nicknamed wore civilian clothes and an armband emblazoned ‘GR’ (Georgius Rex).On Easter Monday they were on exercises in the Wicklow Hills, heard about the rebellion and marched back to depot at Beggar's Bush in two columns. They came under fire on Northumberland Road and suffered four killed and several wounded. A larger column, nearly 100 strong managed to get to the barracks and eventually engage the rebels. It was widely believed that the GRs had either no weapons or rifles with no ammunition. Among Dublin's loyalist population it was asserted that 'They made no demonstration against the rebels, and were shot down without any warning.'The dead were F. H. Browning, Reginald Clery, John Gibbs, Thomas Harborne and James Nolan. G. Hosford was shot by a sniper at Beggar's Bush and died later. Browning was a graduate of Trinity, president of the Irish Rugby Football Union, an outstanding cricketer and had founded the Irish Rugby Volunteer Corps. A diary compiled by Herbert Victor Fleming during Easter Week 1916 refers to the death of his 'best and only chum' Reggie Clery.However Volunteer officer James Grace was unapologetic about the action: 'Early that afternoon a Company of GRs approached from the direction of Ballsbridge. We opened fire on them and they scattered and retreated. Here I would like to say a word to those who condemn us for firing on them. The local Company of these GRs made up from Ballsbridge and the vicinity, numbered about thirty and for some weeks previous to the rising they held parades from Baggot Street at about 5.30 each Saturday. There were about thirty in the Company, about twenty armed with Italian rifles and ten armed with Lee Enfield rifles, and the plea has been made that these Yeos were not armed and had no ammunition, but that is false. I had made it my duty to keep these under observation each Saturday at the time named and I saw them carry arms and ammunition. After we fired a couple of rounds Lieutenant Malone ordered us to cease fire so that the wounded could be removed.'Grace also argued that the GRs had orders to attack the rebels if they got the opportunity: 'While we were covering the gates of Beggar's Bush Barracks two men, one elderly, the other young, approached us, and the elderly man tried to induce Paddy Roe to let him look at this rifle. I had my bayonet fixed and I told the man to stand back. He persisted, however, and advanced a few steps towards Paddy Roe and tried to take the rifle from his hands. I immediately put the bayonet up to his throat and I told him to stand back. He put his hand in his breast pocket and pulled an old bulldog revolver and was just going to shoot when I pressed the bayonet against his throat. The younger man jumped between us and said, "it's alright, Sergeant, don't shoot my father". I afterwards found out that this man was a member of the GRs, a pro-British territorial organisation which corresponded to the Yeos of 1798. His name was O'Connell and I was guilty of a dereliction of duty in not killing him or in disarming him through mistake in leniency. I heard afterwards that the GRs had instructions to rush and disarm Irish Volunteers when alone or in small numbers.'Whatever the exact truth of the incident (and the Volunteers would not have known whether the GR's rifles were loaded or not) it points to the reality of political and social division in Dublin and also to a potential for inter-communal strife.AboutThis article is one in a series created by Dr Brian Hanley, historian-in-residence at Dublin City Library & Archive, to coincide with the exhibition 'Citizens in Conflict: Dublin 1916 / Éirí Amach sa Chathair: Baile Átha Cliath 1916', running at Dublin City Library & Archive from January to June 2016.Dublin Remembers 1916 Programme of Events | Hashtag: #Dublin1916
Citizens in Conflict #1. The Rising was immediately dubbed the ‘Sinn Féin Rebellion’ and the participants almost universally described as ‘Sinn Féiners.’ In recent years many have suggested that this title is misleading, because neither Sinn Féin the political party, nor its leader, Arthur Griffith, played a role in the Rising. Indeed some even suggest that Griffith was opposed to violence and that Sinn Féin was not a revolutionary organization. In fact Sinn Féin and its members played leading roles in 1916. Éamonn Ceannt, one of the signatories of the Proclamation, was a member of the party. Michael O’Hanrahan, also executed for his role in the Rising, was a Sinn Féin activist. Seán MacDiarmada had been an organizer for the party from 1907-1909. Sinn Féin’s leader on Dublin Corporation, W. T. Cosgrave, took part in the Rising, as did his colleague Seán T. O'Kelly. There were dozens of Sinn Féin members or ex-members among the rank and file of the rebels.A misunderstanding of the politics of Arthur Griffith’s party means that many people find it hard to understand why republicans could support a ‘monarchist’ organization. In fact Sinn Féin was a coalition, in which republicans and non-republicans, Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) members and labour activists could all find a home. Richard O’Carroll and Peadar Macken, both Irish Volunteers who were killed during the Rising, were also officials in the bricklayers and painters unions, Labour members of Dublin Trades Council, members of the Gaelic League, the IRB and ex-members of Sinn Féin.Arthur Griffith (left, click to view larger version) was a central figure in separatist politics. What attracted many to the party was his prolific journalism and vitriolic hatred of Britain. He had been a member of the IRB and remained on good terms with its leaders (who helped fund his newspapers). He was not a pacifist; as a rank and file member of the Irish Volunteers he took part in the Howth gunrunning. (Griffith was also once jailed for horsewhipping a journalist who had insulted Maud Gonne). But like many radicals, he considered the insurrection to be a tactical mistake. Most of the republican leadership did not hold this against him, considering that his writings had helped radicalize a generation.Despite being verbally abused by Griffith during the Treaty debates, Erskine Childers could still describe him as ‘the greatest intellectual force stimulating the tremendous national revival which took shape in Easter Week.’ Griffith’s central contributions were to popularize abstentionism and the idea of economic self-sufficiency. Despite his denunciations of the Irish Transport & General Workers' Union (ITGWU) during the Lockout, James Connolly was inviting his ‘good friend’ Griffith onto anti-war platforms by October 1914. The separatist milieu was very fluid; Padraig Pearse was never a member of Sinn Féin but he addressed the Sinn Féin meeting commemorating John Mitchel during at Antient Concert Rooms on Great Brunswick Street during November 1915. (Sean Connolly of the Irish Citizens Army took part in the same event.)Above Images, click to view larger versions.Most importantly, the term ‘Sinn Féiner’ was widely used to describe any radical nationalist. Hence the Irish Volunteers led by Eoin MacNeill after September 1914 were usually referred to by both the authorities and the public as the ‘Sinn Féin Volunteers.’ To most people a ‘Sinn Féiner’ was a rebel and in that sense 1916 was a ‘Sinn Féin rebellion.’AboutThis article is the first in a series created by Dr Brian Hanley, historian-in-residence at Dublin City Library & Archive, to coincide with the exhibition 'Citizens in Conflict: Dublin 1916 / Éirí Amach sa Chathair: Baile Átha Cliath 1916', running at Dublin City Library & Archive from January to June 2016.Dublin Remembers 1916 Programme of Events | Hashtag: #Dublin1916