BANNED: Sinn Féin, Irish Volunteers, Cumann na mBan and the Gaelic League
Dublin, 5 July 1918 - Sinn Féin, the Irish Volunteers, Cumann na mBan and the Gaelic League have all been proclaimed as illegal organisations by the Lord Lieutenant, Viscount French.
The proclamation states that the proscribed organisations are dangerous and a ‘grave menace’ designed to ‘terrorise the peaceful and law-abiding subjects of His Majesty in Ireland’.
It goes on to say that these associations ‘encourage and aid persons to commit crimes and promote and incite to acts of violence and intimidation and interfere with the administration of the law and disturb the maintenance of law and order’.
The Irish Times, no supporter of any of the banned organisations, has welcomed the development as a sign that the government has decided that sedition will ‘no longer be preached and practised with impunity in Ireland’. The paper also says that this new policy ‘furnishes final proof of the gravity of the Irish problem’.
In the immediate aftermath of the proclamation, business continued as usual at the Sinn Féin headquarters at 6 Harcourt Street and at the Gaelic League’s head offices at 25 Parnell Square. Both organisations claimed that they had not received any direct communication, let alone any visits, from the police or military.
Speaking to a representative of the Evening Telegraph, Prof. Eoin Mac Neill, President of the Gaelic League, struck a defiant note, declaring that the organisation would ‘not allow itself to be driven underground’ and would continue to ‘have the support of the nation and of Irishmen abroad’.
Prof. MacNeill pointed out that the Gaelic League was approaching its 25th anniversary, on 23 July, and that throughout its lifetime it had always been ‘non-political – that is to say has never interfered in the controversy with regard to the form of the Irish Government, and left all its members absolutely free to hold whatever political opinions they pleased. Of course it a new situation now. The Government itself has taken the initiative in making the neutrality of the Gaelic League impossible.’
There are indications that in banning the Gaelic League the authorities may well have spurred interest in the language movement as several booksellers have referred to being ‘inundated with orders’ for booklets and manuals of instruction and conversations in the Irish language. The casual use of Irish on streets is also reported to have increased.
Cumann na mBan has expressed surprise at the actions of the government and has taken it as a sign that ‘conscription is now a certainty’ – all of the organisation’s recent public work has been geared towards the campaign to oppose conscription.
The Lord Lieutenant’s made his proclamation under the Criminal Law and Procedure (Ireland) Act of 1887 which gives the authorities the power to outlaw any organisation it believes to be involved in criminal activities.
[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.]