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Redmond urges Irish Volunteers to join the British Army
'Presenting the Colours'. Mr. Redmond and the Maryboro Volunteers in Woodenbridge, Co. Wicklow Photo: National Library of Ireland, INDH12c

Redmond urges Irish Volunteers to join the British Army

Speech at Woodenbridge calls on men to go ‘wherever the firing line extends’

Woodenbridge, 21 September 1914 - John Redmond, the leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, has called on members of the Irish Volunteers to join the British Army.

He said: ‘Go on drilling and make yourself efficient for the work, and then account for yourselves as men, not only in Ireland itself, but wherever the firing line extends in defence of right, of freedom and religion in this war.’

Mr. Redmond made the comments yesterday in the village of Woodenbridge where he was attending a parade of the East Wicklow Volunteers having travelled overnight from London.

He told the Volunteers: ‘Remember this country is in a state of war, and your duty is two-fold. Your duty is, at all costs, to defend the shores of Ireland from foreign invasion. It is a duty more than that of taking care that Irish valour proves itself on the field of war, as it has always proved itself in the past.’

Top: the village of Woodenbridge, where Mr Redmond addressed the East Wicklow Volunteers (Image: National Library of Ireland, LROY 00592) Bottom left: with Sir Timothy O'Brien, inspecting the Volunteers. Bottom right: congratulating Dr Blayney and the nursing staff of the Maryboro Volunteers. (Images: Irish Life, 21 August 1914. Full collection of Irish Life available from the National Library of Ireland)

Mr. Redmond was clear that the duties of the Volunteers extended far beyond Irish shores: ‘It would be a disgrace forever to our country, and a denial of the lessons of her history, if young Irishmen confined their efforts to remaining at home to defend the shores of Ireland from an unlikely invasion and shrinking from the duty of proving upon the field of battle that gallantry and courage which have distinguished your race all through its history.’

Dr Conor Mulvagh discusses the impact of John Redmond's speech in Woodenbridge in September, 1914.

He set out the reasons for war: ‘The interests of Ireland as a whole are at stake in this war. This war is undertaken in defence of the highest principles of religion, morality and right.’

The parade of 500 Volunteers took place in a field near the Railway Station in Woodenbridge. More than 3,000 people attended the parade and, before he departed, Mr. Redmond inspected the men, some of whom were carrying rifles.

Mr. Redmond has urged the establishment of an ‘Irish Brigade’ within the British Army - one that would be officered by Irishmen - but there has not as yet been a positive response from the British Government.

[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.