Sinn Féin leaders arrested over alleged ‘German plot’
Dublin, 18 May 1918 - In a dramatic midnight swoop, police and military authorities have arrested leading members of the Sinn Féin movement. Among them were a number of MPs and the party’s president, Éamon de Valera, who was seized at his home in Greystones, Co. Wicklow and taken to Kingstown Police Station.
At 1 am, Constance Markievicz was apprehended in Rathmines. Already in custody by then was Darrell Figgis, party secretary, who was seized at his home a couple of hours earlier by several soldiers and half a dozen detectives. Figgis was taken away in a lorry to Dublin Castle.
The reasons for these arrests were given by a proclamation issued by the Lord Lieutenant, Viscount French, and signed by the Chief Secretary, Edward Shortt, both of whom were recently appointed.
The proclamation, published this morning, alleged that the government in Ireland had discovered that a seditious element had been engaging in ‘treasonable communication with Germany’. The arrests were intended to crush what it termed as this ‘German Plot’. The proclamation further urges ‘all loyal subjects’ to assist the government in suppressing this treachery.
Also, in a move, seen by many as a softening in the official attitude towards recruitment in Ireland, the proclamation states that authorities will take steps to ‘facilitate and encourage voluntary enlistment in Ireland...in the hope that without resort to compulsion the contribution of Ireland’ to Britain’s forces ‘may be brought up to its proper strength’.
The Belfast Newsletter, thinks the government has been unduly influenced by this unrest and accuses this, and the previous, administration of pursuing ‘the path of political expediency in its dealing with Irish nationalism and Irish treason too long’.
On the other hand, the Irish Independent has argued that the juxtaposition of details of the plot with the question of military service exposes the proclamation as an exercise in cheap propaganda.
[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.]