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Irish Party withdraws from Westminster
The Irish table in the House of Commons. The Irish Parliamentary Party have withdrawn from Westminster to assist the fight against conscription in Ireland Photo: Illustrated London News [London, England] 30 October 1909

Irish Party withdraws from Westminster

Dublin, 20 April 1918 - At a special meeting in Dublin today, the Irish Parliamentary Party decided to withdraw their attendance from the House of Commons to assist the fight against conscription in Ireland.

The well-attended meeting, presided over by the new party leader John Dillon, resolved that in the ‘present crisis, the highest and most immediate duty of the members of the Party is to remain in Ireland, and actively cooperate with their constituents in opposing the enforcement of compulsory military service in Ireland’.

The decision to introduce conscription without consultation was further denounced in the strongest terms. It was, another resolution stated, one of the most ‘brutal acts of tyranny and oppression that any Government can be guilty of’. The party pledged to support the decisions of the recent National Conference and committed to using the full power of its representation to defeat any attempt to enforce conscription in Ireland.

The late Prof. Keith Jeffery discusses the British government's attempt to introduce conscription in Ireland during the First World War

Unionist reaction
The reaction in Ulster to the anti-conscription movement has been one of fury and dismay. The Belfast Newsletter has declared the nationalist alliance as tantamount to a ‘declaration of war against England’. The constitutionalists (the IPP), the paper claims, have become no more than ‘humble followers of Mr de Valera’.

Moreover, the alliance has confirmed to the unionists all their fears about the prospects for tolerance and inclusion in a self-governing Ireland. ‘The grant of self-government will not change Roman Catholic rebels into loyal men’, the Newsletter continued, ‘but it will give them the power to oppress, plunder, and endeavour to exterminate the Protestants because of their loyalty’.

[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.