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Strikers urged to join new Citizen Army
The headquarters of the ITGWU where James Connolly called for the formation of the Irish Citizen Army. The banner above the door reads: 'Working stealing Begging, there are only three ways of living if so read the Irish Worker, the only labour paper in Ireland'. Photo: National Library of Ireland, KE 202

Strikers urged to join new Citizen Army

Strikers ‘take a leaf from Carson’s book’

Published: 19 November 1913

A new body – the Irish Citizen Army – has been founded in Dublin. 

The new army is recruiting from the ranks of the strikers engaged in the current Lockout in the city.

At a public meeting outside Liberty Hall in Beresford Place in Dublin, James Connolly noted that Orangemen have already ordered a supply of rifles: ‘We have not done so yet … but we want our men to be trained and drilled, so that when it comes to a pinch they will be able to handle a rifle.’

Supporting the formation of the Irish Citizen Army, Connolly said: ‘We mean to have a regular establishment for majors, captains, sergeants and corporals, for we mean to defend our rights as citizens, and any man who means in the future to become a member of the Transport Union must be prepared to enroll himself in our citizen army.’

He continued: ‘Stand up and throw the upper classes off your back, and by stopping the wheels of industry you will make these people recognise the great power that you possess. Our rebellion is against the employing classes, so that we shall have our rights, and to that end we mean to fight until victory crowns our flag.’

Connolly concluded by saying that Captain Jack White D.S.O. would lead the army and train the men who enlisted. He also said that they had offers from other officers to help do the same.

White, from Co. Antrim, is a former officer in the British army who fought in the Boer War. He is the son of Field Marshal Sir George Stuart White, but resigned from the army under the influence of the writings of Leo Tolstoy. He has recently been involved in support of the Home Rule cause and spoke beside Sir Roger Casement at the pro-Home Rule meeting organised at Ballymoney.

In his BMH Witness Statement, John Hanratty recalls the background the formation of the Irish citizen Army (Bureau of Military History 1913-1921, Military Archive)

White is reported to have suggested the idea of a citizen army and to have spoken of the benefits of drilling workers, particularly in light of the way they have been attacked by police.

Speaking to a crowd at Liberty Hall, Captain White said that this was a day of hope for the workers and that the Irish Citizen Army would fight for labour and for Ireland. This fight, he said, was a fight for social liberty.

Drilling for the Citizen Army is to take place at Croydon Park in Clontarf.

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.