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Dillon: ‘Ireland will not have conscription!’
'Is your home worth fighting for? It will be too late to fight when the enemy is at your door so JOIN TODAY': One of the many recruitment posters aimed at getting more Irish men to join the army during the First World War. Photo: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Dillon: ‘Ireland will not have conscription!’

Irish Parliamentary Party appeals for more recruits to enlist

Armagh, 2 November 1915 - Rallies all across Ireland have again heard pledges from nationalist politicians that there will be no conscription introduced by the British government in Ireland.

At a rally in Armagh, John Dillon MP told a huge gathering that there was no prospect of conscription being introduced: ‘We have told the government that Ireland will not have conscription, and she won’t.’

Mr. Dillon referred to the fact that they could have made a bargain by which they would secure exemption for Ireland, by agreeing to support conscription in England: ‘We made no bargain. We are against conscription all along the line. We stood in with our friends, the working classes of England, who have stood by us so loyally during the past ten years, and we have defeated conscription not only for Ireland but for Great Britain also.’

Left: Enlistment form printed in Irish Life in the wake of Mr Dillon's speech in Armagh. Click to enlarge. (Image: Irish Life, 5 Nov 1915. Full collection of Irish Life available from the National Library of Ireland).

Right: Ernest Kavanagh, cartoonist for The Irish Worker, was an outspoken critic of the Irish Parliamentary Party's policy towards recruitment and the war. (Image: National Library of Ireland)

Warming to his theme, Mr. Dillon continued: ‘A gang of gentlemen in England who really are determined to take advantage of the present war in order to turn England into another Prussia,are always talking about putting down Prussian militarism, but they want to introduce it into England and make it as bad or worse than Prussia.’

Mr. Dillon claimed that there was no need to introduce conscription in Britain: ‘At the present hour in England – and I think it is greatly to the credit of the English people – they are getting men as recruits, more men than they are able to arm.’

Referring to the appeal by Lord Wimborne for more recruits to enlist. Mr. Dillon said: ‘The number of men they have asked for from Ireland is reasonable and fair. They ask for 50,000 men within the next year. I hope and trust the number will be found.’

Mr. Dillon’s message was repeated by other senior members of the Irish Parliamentary Party in towns and cities across Ireland.

[Editor's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]

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Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.