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Catholic Church adds its support to anti-conscription crusade
A priest addresses a anti-conscription rally in Killarney Photo: 'Manchester Guardian History of War', 1918. Full collection available from the National Library of Ireland

Catholic Church adds its support to anti-conscription crusade

Collections to be held for a National Defence Fund

Maynooth, 19 April 1918 - The Irish Catholic hierarchy has united with the broad spectrum of Irish nationalism in opposing British plans to extend compulsory military service to Ireland.

A specially convened meeting of the hierarchy to consider the conscription question was held at Maynooth yesterday while an anti-conscription conference was being held at the Mansion House. Over the course of the day a representative group of politicians and labour leaders travelled from the Mansion House to Maynooth where they met with the Archbishops and Bishops.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the message from Maynooth was one of unambiguous support for the anti-conscription campaign.

A copy of the pledge to be taken at the church door of every parish on Sunday, 21 April 1918. (Image: National Library of Ireland, EPH E103)

A statement adopted by the Archbishops and Bishops asserted that conscription was being forced upon Ireland in a way that rendered it an ‘oppressive and inhuman law’ and that Irish people had ‘the right to resist by all the means that are consonant with the law of God.’

The Bishops further directed the clergy to celebrate a public mass of intercession on Sunday next and at the churches it was proposed to collect names in support of the following statement:

‘Denying the right of the British Government to enforce compulsory service in this country, we pledge ourselves solemnly to one another to resist conscription by the most effective means at our disposal.’

Furthermore, the clergy was instructed to hold a collection outside the church gates for the purpose of creating a National Defence Fund to resist the imposition of compulsory military service.

[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.