Echoes of the Rising as Irish firebrands arrested and deported
Dublin, 23 February 1917 - Midnight raids by police across Ireland have led to the arrest and imprisonment of 26 men under the Defence of the Realm Act.
The men were brought to Arbour Hill in Dublin by detectives and were then handed over to the military authorities who informed a number of them that they were to be deported to England where they were to remain in custody. As of this evening, 19 of the men are reported to have been deported.
Among the men arrested were the prominent writers J.J. O’Kelly and Darrell Figgis; men who had fought in the Rising such as William Pedlar and Herbert Mellowes; and Cork activists Terence MacSwiney and Thomas McCurtain.
Many of the men were active in the Gaelic League and had previously been in prison or in internment camps before being released just before Christmas.
A Freeman’s Journal editorial challenged the assumption underpinning the arrests:
'How the most harmless things and even the most salutary things in Ireland appear when viewed through those distorting mediums was made abundantly clear by some of the police witnesses examined before the Hardinge Commission. To some of these witnesses a nationalist of any kind means a potential rebel. A Gaelic Leaguer is inevitably suspect to them.... a knowledge of the Gaelic language is taken as an index of a dangerous character.'
The arrest and imprisonment of the 26 men without any charge was condemned in the House of Commons by John Dillon MP, of the Irish Parliamentary Party, as 'provocative'.
Explaining the decision, the British authorities said that those deported were now ‘prohibited from residing in Ireland and have been given their choice of place in England, where they may reside'.
[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.]