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140,000 Irishmen now serving in the Great War claims Redmond
Mr John Redmond has claimed that there are 140,000 Irishmen fighting for the British army in the Great War. Photo: © National Portrait Gallery, London

140,000 Irishmen now serving in the Great War claims Redmond

Irish nationalists will bear burden on behalf of Empire

Tuam, 7 December 1914 - Claims that Irish nationalists have shirked their responsibilities to the British Empire by failing to enlist in the British Army have been rejected by the leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, John Redmond.

Mr. Redmond was addressing a meeting in Tuam, Co. Galway yesterday in which he said that the response of Irish nationalists had been gallant and that any suggestion of a refusal to enlist was ‘shameful and dishonest.’

Mr. Redmond produced detailed figures on the numbers of Irishmen who had joined the Army since war began in August. According to these figures - which were released to Mr. Redmond by the British Army - 53,489 men have enlisted from Ireland. Of these men, 27,828 were Catholics, including 16,442 members of the Irish National Volunteers.

Extract from Crime Special Branch report,  December 1914. It states that between the outbreak of the war and 15 December, 33,934 Irishmen enlisted in the British army, of which 13,711 were Roman Catholic and 7,819 were National Volunteers. These figures differ considerably to those quoted by Mr Redmond. Click for full document. This information is on Page 3. (Image: National Archives, UK)

Alluding to the number of Irishmen who had joined the army from Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Mr. Redmond claimed that there were now up to 140,000 Irishmen now serving in the war.

In the course of his oration, Mr. Redmond referred in passing to the role of the Ulster Volunteer Force. When this reference was greeted by jeering from the crowd, Mr. Redmond said: ‘That is, believe me, the wrong spirit towards these men, who will be fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with nationalists in the trenches in France. In God’s name, let us try to grasp from the situation the real unity of Irish people.’

600 men from the Derry UVF have enlisted in the army. John Redmond sees the reality of nationalists and unionists fighting shoulder to shoulder in the war as an opportunity to attain 'the real unity of Irish people'. (Image: Irish Life, 25 Sept 1914. Full collection of Irish Life available from the National Library of Ireland.)

Fighting for the future of Ireland

Mr. Redmond said that the establishment of an Irish Brigade - with a separate distinctive Irish badge on the uniform - was a significant moment. This Brigade, he said, would be fighting for the honour and the newly-won freedom of their country.

He continued that the whole future of Ireland, its prosperity, its religion, its freedom, depended upon the courage, the unity, and the wisdom exhibited by the people of Ireland during the few months that were in front of them.

Saying that he was deeply proud that Ireland was bearing her share of the burden, he concluded: ‘There wasn’t a man in the country whose heart was not deeply stirred by the magnificent heroism of the Connaught Rangers, the Munster Fusiliers, the Dublin Fusiliers, and the other Irish regiments who had been risking everything on the continent. And for what were they taking the risk? To save Irishmen, to save their wives and children, and their property.’

[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.