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Large anti-conscription meeting in Dublin
Patrick Pearse addressing a crowd of Gaelic League members at the Colmcille at Towerfield House Ground, Dolphins Barn in 1915. Photo: Bureau of Military History

Large anti-conscription meeting in Dublin

Patrick Pearse and Eoin MacNeill make rousing speeches

Dublin, 15 December 1915 - A large anti-conscription meeting took place last night in the Mansion House in Dublin.

Both the Round Room and the Supper Room were filled to overflowing with people who professed their opposition to conscription. Most of those who attended were working class and they heard repeated denunciations of any suggestion that conscription be introduced for Ireland.

The meeting was chaired by the UCD Professor, Eoin MacNeill, and he proposed a simple motion to the meeting: ‘We won’t have conscription.’ The motion was passed unanimously.

Prof. MacNeill said:

‘The government’s plan for a long time has been to deprive the Irish Volunteers of their arms, and, if that were done, nothing would stand between the Irish people and complete enslavement. Then would compulsory military service follow.’

‘The Irish Volunteers had never interfered with any man’s freedom to join the forces of the crown if that man thought it his duty to do so but, as regards compulsory service, from first to last they were against it.’

Patrick Pearse (left) and Eoin McNeill (right). (Images: Irish Life, 1916; University College Dublin Archives P80 PH 176)

Ireland and Empire

In his speech, Patrick Pearse – the Dublin schoolmaster and Gaelic League activist – said that if there was any man in Ireland who loved the British Empire let him go out and die for it. He would say not one word against such a man.

He then asked was it to be tolerated that the man who did not believe that the interests of Ireland were bound up with those of the British Empire should be taken against his will and shipped across the seas to lay down his life for a thing which he did not believe?

Mr. Pearse condemned the claimed suggestion of the Lord Lieutenant that businesses should reduce their staffs in order to free up men to fight in the war. It was, he said, ‘a dastardly suggestion.’

[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.