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Irish Volunteers split over Redmond’s recruitment plea
John Redmond: "I say to the Prime Minister, and through him to the people of Great Britain: 'You have kept faith with Ireland; Ireland will keep faith with you.'" Photo: Irish Life, 2 October 1914. Full collection of Irish Life available from the National Library of Ireland.

Irish Volunteers split over Redmond’s recruitment plea

Founders of movement call for the establishment of a ‘National Government’ in Dublin

Published: 25 September 1914

Tensions within the Irish Volunteers have flared into open view with the announcement that all John Redmond’s nominees have been removed from the ruling committee.

The announcement came in a statement by twenty members of the governing committee that is highly critical of John Redmond. Issued by the founder of the Irish Volunteers, Prof. Eoin MacNeill, the statement condemns Mr. Redmond for his call on Irish Volunteers to join the British army.

It reads: ‘Mr. Redmond, addressing a body of Irish Volunteers on last Sunday, has now announced for the Irish Volunteers a policy and programme fundamentally at variance with their own published and accepted aims and pledges.’

‘He has declared it to be the duty of the Irish Volunteers to take foreign service under a government which is not Irish.’

‘He has made this announcement without consulting the Provisional Committee, the Volunteers themselves, or the people of Ireland, to whose service alone they are devoted.’

Dr Conor Mulvagh, UCD, on John Redmond's speech at Woodenbridge.

The statement says that a special convention of Volunteers will be held ‘to declare that Ireland cannot, with honour or safety, take part in foreign quarrels otherwise than through the free action of a National Government of her own; and to repudiate the claim of any man to offer up the blood and lives of the sons of Irishmen and Irishwomen to the service of the British Empire’.

Ultimately, the immediate establishment of a National Government was demanded by Prof. MacNeill and his fellow signatories.

The statement was laced with bitterness at the manner in which Mr. Redmond had assumed control over the Volunteers three months ago when it was a proven success, having initially opposed its establishment and operations. There is also reference to the proposed capacity of certain Ulster counties to opt out of Home Rule, and to John Redmond’s apparent agreement with ‘the legislative dismemberment of Ireland’.

Amongst the men who signed the statement with Prof. O’Neill were P.H. Pearse, Bulmer Hobson, Eamonn Ceannt, Thomas MacDonagh, Sean Mac Diarmada and Liam Mellows.

A split in the Volunteers is now inevitable and a battle for control of the nationwide organisation is already underway.


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