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Echoes of the Rising as Irish firebrands arrested and deported
Irish prisoners being marched through the city after the Rising. The recent arrests have brought these scenes to mind. Photo: RTÉ Archives

Echoes of the Rising as Irish firebrands arrested and deported

Dublin, 23 February 1917 - Midnight raids by police across Ireland have led to the arrest and imprisonment of 26 men under the Defence of the Realm Act.

The men were brought to Arbour Hill in Dublin by detectives and were then handed over to the military authorities who informed a number of them that they were to be deported to England where they were to remain in custody. As of this evening, 19 of the men are reported to have been deported.

Among the men arrested were the prominent writers J.J. O’Kelly and Darrell Figgis; men who had fought in the Rising such as William Pedlar and Herbert Mellowes; and Cork activists Terence MacSwiney and Thomas McCurtain.

Many of the men were active in the Gaelic League and had previously been in prison or in internment camps before being released just before Christmas.

A letter signed 'A friend' questioning the government's decision to release the Irish prisoners who had been interned after the Rising: ' might just as well let out the wild animals through Phoenix Park and expect them to act like lambs...' Click to read in full. (Image: National Archives of Ireland, CSO RP 1917, 345)

A Freeman’s Journal editorial challenged the assumption underpinning the arrests:

'How the most harmless things and even the most salutary things in Ireland appear when viewed through those distorting mediums was made abundantly clear by some of the police witnesses examined before the Hardinge Commission. To some of these witnesses a nationalist of any kind means a potential rebel. A Gaelic Leaguer is inevitably suspect to them.... a knowledge of the Gaelic language is taken as an index of a dangerous character.'

The arrest and imprisonment of the 26 men without any charge was condemned in the House of Commons by John Dillon MP, of the Irish Parliamentary Party,  as 'provocative'.

Explaining the decision, the British authorities said that those deported were now ‘prohibited from residing in Ireland and have been given their choice of place in England, where they may reside'. 

[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.