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Arrested Sinn Féin leaders shipped to Britain
Troops escorting the Sinn Féin leaders Photo: Manchester Guardian, History of War 1918. Full collection available in the National Library of Ireland.

Arrested Sinn Féin leaders shipped to Britain

Kingstown, 21 May 1918 - 73 Sinn Féin prisoners have been shipped to Britain, after being arrested on 17 May by police and military authorities.

The arrests have caused a public sensation; newspapers have been snapped up by those eager for details of what happened.

As of this moment, it is understood that 24 of the arrests took place in Dublin, the most recent of them involving Maud Gonne MacBride, who was seized while returning from a visit to George Russell. Also in Dublin, the Sinn Féin headquarters on Harcourt Street and the National Aid offices on Bachelor’s Walk were raided, with papers removed from the former.

Arrests also took place in the cities of Belfast and Cork and in counties Kilkenny, Wexford, Westmeath, King’s County, Galway, Sligo, Roscommon, Clare, Kerry, Tipperary, Cavan and Tyrone. Most of them concluded without incident or public disturbance; one exception was in Skibbereen, Co. Cork, where six arrests were made. One prisoner, Ted O’Driscoll, was wounded in the arm by a revolver bullet.

The 73 arrested men and women were transferred to Dublin, arriving in twos and threes at Kingstown, where they were placed on board a steamer.

As the prisoners arrived, they were given an enthusiastic reception by crowds that had gathered on the wharf, sometimes shouting republican slogans – ‘Up the rebels’ and ‘Small nationalities’ – and sometimes breaking into singing of the ‘Soldier’s song’. The ship departed Kingstown for Holyhead at 6 pm, receiving a rousing send off from the crowd.

Back in Frongoch
About 50 of the prisoners have been lodged in the Frongoch Internment camp, a site with which a number of them will be familiar having been interned there in the aftermath of the Easter Rising in 1916. Countess Markievicz has been imprisoned in Holloway Jail, London.

Illustration of Frongoch Prison Camp by Cathal MacDowall, who was interned there (Image: With the Irish in Frongoch by W.J. Brennan Whitmore. Available at the National Library of Ireland)

The Press Association is reporting that the arrests have made solely on the grounds of ‘suspicion’ and that the evidence on which the allegations are based will be published shortly.

The Bishop of Killaloe, Dr Fogarty, speaking at a confirmation ceremony in Borrisokane, Co. Tipperary, said that Ireland would await with interest the publication of the evidence on which the arrest of its ‘national leaders’ had been taken, adding that the government action has filled the ‘heart of the nation with distrust and exasperation’.

Similarly, in a letter published in the Irish independent, Cpt. Stephen Gwynn asked for proof to be provided of the charges levelled against the arrested men and women.

Gwynn, a firm supporter of the war effort, cautioned against a repetition of the ‘insane severities’ that followed the 1916 Rising: ‘No reasons of State can justify the policy of withholding from Ireland the facts on which the proclamation was based and the arrests ordered.’

[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.]


Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.