April 23: TODAY in Irish History (by IrishmanSpeaks)
1916: Approximately 1,000 copies of The Proclamation of the Irish Republic are printed in Liberty Hall in a print office set up by James Connolly. The proclamation will be read by Patrick Pearse outside the General Post Office on Sackville Street (now called O’Connell Street) on Monday April 24th.
The proclamation was printed secretly on an old and poorly maintained Wharfedale Stop Cylinder Press in the printing office that had been set up by James Connolly in the basement in the original Liberty Hall in Beresford Place, Dublin. Source
All seven signatories of the Proclamation Pearse, James Connolly, Thomas Clarke, Thomas MacDonagh, Sean MacDermott, Joseph Plunkett and Eamonn Ceannt would be executed by British authorities.
Easter Sunday was a day of confusion and indecision amongst the rebel movement. The Irish Volunteers Chief of Staff, Eoin MacNeil cancels the planned manoeveres of volunteers in defiance of Patrick Pearse, by placing a notice in that morning’s newspapers. Pearse and company had expected the manoeveres to be the instigation of a Rising, he and his colleagues knew had little chance of success. McNeil’s cancellation occured partly because he had only just become aware of the true nature of the manoeveres and also due to the capture of Roger Casement and the major arms shipment aboard the Aud of the coast of Kerry.
An noon on Easter Sunday, Pearse and the Military Council decided to postpone the insurrection until the follow day, Easter Monday April 24th. Despite a long and bleak history of failed insurrections due to leaks and informers to British authorities, it appears that for once the Irish rebels were able to keep their plans secret.
1918: Irish Trade Unions call a general strike in protest against the imposition of conscription in Ireland. The British Military Service Act of 1916 introduced conscription into mainland Britain. At the time, Ireland was excluded. However, with manpower at a critical level in 1918, the government of Lloyd George started agitating for conscription of Irish males and on April 16, 1918 formally extending conscription to Ireland. Not surprisingly, it provoked a firestorm of resentment. While an estimated 200,000 Irish fought in the British Army during World War I, many had enlisted in the idealistic early days of 1914, partly prompted by Irish politician John Redmond, although the bulk of the soldiers were from Ulster.
Britain’s reaction to the 1916 Rising generated huge resentment and virulent opposition to most things English. Thus the proposed conscription legislation was seen as anathema to the Irish who no longer believed that the war to end all wars was to save the small countries of Europe.
The General Strike and anti-conscription activity gained huge support including a statement from the Irish Catholic hierarchy part of which read:
“To enforce conscription here without the consent of the people would be perfectly unwarrantable and would soon and inevitably end in defeating its own purposes.
‘Had the government in any reasonable time given Ireland the benefit of the principles, which are declared to be at stake in the war, by concession of a full measure of self-government, there would have been no occasion for contemplating forced levies for her now. What between mismanagement and mischief-making this country has already been deplorably upset, and it would be a fatal mistake, surpassing the worst blunders of the past four years, to furnish a plea now for desperate courses by an attempt to enforce conscription. With all the responsibility that attaches to our pastoral office, we feel bound to warn the government against entering on a policy so disastrous to the public interest, and to all order, public and private.”
In the light of intense opposition that almost certainly have led to violence, the British government did not implement conscription in Ireland.
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