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Republican prisoners released from British jails
Republican prisoners in Stafford Prison 1916 Photo: National Museum of Ireland

Republican prisoners released from British jails

Dublin, 26 December 1916 - The latest group of Irish prisoners released from English jails and internment camps since the Rising at Easter arrived home on Christmas morning.

The last boat to land was filled with men who had been interned without trial in Reading Jail. They included Arthur Griffith, Sean T. O’Kelly, Terence MacSwiney and Thomas MacCurtain. Almost all of the men were members of the Irish Volunteers or the Irish Citizen Army.

'Christmas Greetings' postcard sent from Frongoch prison camp by Patrick O'Keeffe to Crissie Doyle on 20 Dec 1916, just days before he was released. (Image: National Library of Ireland)

Several of the men looked sick and wan. One claimed that they had been fed only porridge for four months and that their survival was due only to the arrival of food parcels from Ireland.

Quite a number of the men were also reputed to be sick. In particular, the freezing conditions in their cells was considered to have brought widespread influenza. By contrast, the prisoners who arrived home from the internment camp at Frongoch were ‘quite cheerful’ and considered themselves to have been well-treated.

Left: document recommending against the release of an internee named Patrick Hughes. Right: letter relating to the difficulty of '20 or 30 men', formerly employed by Guinness, obtaining jobs on their release. Click to enlarge. (Images: National Archives of Ireland)

Recent weeks have seen some 600 prisoners arrive back to Ireland. They have been greeted by exhilarated crowds who waved tricolours and shouted ‘Up the Republic’.

They passed from the North Wall Quay to train stations and on to the counties from which they hailed.

[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.