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National Volunteers hold conference in Dublin
Limerick branch of the Limerick branch of the Irish National Volunteers from the Irish Independent, 6 March 1914 Photo: MacManus Album, National Library of Ireland

National Volunteers hold conference in Dublin

Dublin, 29 September 1917 - The Irish National Volunteers has held its first convention since Easter 1915.

The gathering took place at the Mansion House in Dublin and was chaired by the acting Inspector General, Major Crean.

A report submitted to the convention noted the very significant changes that had taken place since the occasion of the previous convention when 25,000 men, many of them drilled and equipped, marched through the streets of the capital and took part in a great review in the Phoenix Park.

Since then, the war and the Rising have taken a toll on the Volunteers. ‘The war depleted our ranks’, the report stated, ‘and the military restrictions which followed on the Rising compelled us to suspend drilling and training.’

‘Consequently it has been a matter of great difficulty to hold the organisation together in even a semblance of its former strength and condition.’

Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh about the rise of volunteerism in Ireland in the early 20th century

The secretary’s report set out the reasons for the shrunken character of the Volunteer movement, but it also exposed some of the internal divisions that have beset it.

The recent efforts of Col. Moore to establish a breakaway organisation by seizing the Volunteer headquarters and holding an ‘irregular’ convention was described as a ‘disloyal’ act that had led to the seizure of Volunteer arms by the military authorities. Subsequently, steps were taken to re-secure the headquarters and other property.

Despite these very public divisions, the Irish National Volunteers clearly has no intention of fading away. The organisation demanded the end of martial law and the restoration to Irishmen of their ‘ordinary rights as citizens’.

It determined to maintain its organisation as a ‘disciplined body to maintain the right of public meeting, freedom of discussion, and observance of a spirit of self-respect and self-reliance’.

In other noteworthy business, the convention passed a resolution regretting the retirement of John Redmond as President of the Irish National Volunteers, and thanking him for his contribution to the organisation.

[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.