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Extraordinary celebrations as final rebellion prisoners released
Crowds throng the entrance to Westland Row train station to welcome the rebels home Photo: National Library of Ireland

Extraordinary celebrations as final rebellion prisoners released

Dublin, 19 June 1917 - There were scenes of jubilation at Westland Row train station yesterday where thousands gathered to greet the released Republican prisoners, arriving home from prisons throughout England.

The crowd had been gathering at the station for hours to meet the 117 prisoners who had been arrested in the aftermath of the Easter Rising. Recognisable in the crowd were mothers, sisters and widows of the executed rebel leaders.

British Pathé footage of the arrival of Countess Markievicz in Dublin after her release

Among those released were Countess Markievicz and Count Plunkett, the latter of whom had only been arrested and jailed earlier this month. Countess Markievicz was accompanied by Kathleen Lynn, Helena Molony and Marie Perolz who had all travelled to Britain to escort her home.

Other senior figures released included Eoin MacNeill, Eamon de Valera, Thomas Ashe and Cathal Brugha.

The journey home
The prisoners were brought from Parkhurst, Maidstone, Portland and Lewes prisons to Pentonville in London, before being put about a special train leaving Euston Station.

While in Pentonville Prison, some of the prisoners located the grave of Sir Roger Casement and knelt and prayed there for some time. Some took away with them pieces of the sod that covered the remains as mementos.

The returnees arrived in Holyhead at 1.30am, and as they disembarked from the train at the port they sang 'The Soldier’s Song', and were arranged in military order by Mr de Valera before setting sail for home. 

More scenes from inside and outside Westland Row station in Dublin, as the freed prisoners return home (Images: National Library of Ireland)

British government statement
The British government minister Andrew Bonar Law, speaking in the House of Commons, remarked that the release was intended to facilitate an ‘atmosphere of harmony and goodwill’ ahead of the Convention of Irishmen to decide how the country is to be administered into the future.

Mr Bonar Law stated that, in releasing the prisoners, the Government had satisfied itself ‘in the first place, that the public security will not be endangered by such an act of grace; and, secondly, that in none of the cases concerned is there evidence that participations in the rebellion was accompanied by individual acts which would render such a display of clemency impossible’.

This amnesty, which follows an earlier release on Christmas Eve last year, means that all of those arrested due to their involvement in the Rising have now been freed.

[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.]

RTÉ

Century Ireland

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