100 years ago, a succession of events unfolded across a ten-year period that would redefine the island of Ireland and its people forever.
The Ulster Covenant
On Ulster Day, September 28th 1912, almost 500,000 people signed the Ulster Covenant and Belfast City Hall served as one of the venues for the signing. They pledged to defend 'for ourselves and our children our cherished position of equal citizenship in the United Kingdom' and to resist the implementation of a Home Rule parliament in Ireland.
29 Jul 1911
He famously said
Sir Edward Carson was the political and spiritual leader of Irish Unionism between 1910-21. He indicated his militant stand for the maintenance of the Union between Britain and Ireland in a private letter to the Ulster Unionist Sir James Craig:
“I am not for a mere game of bluff, and, unless Ulster men are prepared to make great sacrifices which they clearly understand, the talk of resistance is no use.”
28 Sep 1912
The Crawford myth
It has been claimed that many signed the Covenant in their own blood, particularly Frederick Hugh Crawford. Tests conducted in 2012 make it highly unlikely that Crawford signed the Covenant in his own blood, casting doubt on whether anyone else had. It has been suggested, however, that signing the Covenant ‘in blood’ was meant metaphorically and not literally.
28 Sep 1912
In the end
In total, almost half a million men and women signed the Covenant who pledged to oppose Home Rule by “all means which may be found necessary”. The Third Home Rule Bill became legislation on September 18th, 1914 but its implementation was suspended due to the First World War and the unresolved issue of whether Ulster would be included in a Home Rule parliament.
Rise Of The Labour Movement
The Dublin Lock-out was a major industrial dispute between 20,000 workers and 300 employers, marking a watershed in Irish labour history.
26 Apr 1907
Belfast on strike
In the spring of 1907 James Larkin, of the National Union of Dock Labourers, helped to organise dock workers in Belfast. Employers locked out union members and precipitated a bitter strike by dockers and carters, which lasted until November. During the strike there was sectarian violence, anti-sectarian actions by workers and the police mutinied in Belfast while British Army troops were deployed to quell unrest. James Sexton, the leader of the National Union of Dock Labourers, settled the strike without consulting Jim Larkin causing Larkin to feel dissatisfied at the role of British trade unions in Ireland.
01 Jan 1911
Larkin mobilises workers
After moving to Dublin, Larkin started to organise semi-skilled and unskilled workers within the city. His combination of strident trade unionism, passion for his members and organisational skill spawned a new description for his strategy: ‘Larkinism’. Employers across Ireland became increasingly alarmed at this new form of trade unionism.
31 Aug 1913
The Dublin Lock-Out
The Dublin Lock-Out was a major dispute between over 20,000 workers and 300 employers and lasted for almost five months. The Lock-Out began when Dublin’s leading employer, William Martin Murphy, sacked 100 tramway workers because of their membership with the ITGWU. Larkin and the ITGWU decided to withdraw their labour in protest and force the Dublin employers to recognise their employees’ membership of the ITGWU. The most notorious day came on August 31st, 1913 when Larkin, wearing make-up and disguise, addressed a rally from a balcony of the Imperial Hotel on O’Connell Street. Larkin was arrested and the police stormed the crowd, killing two people.
01 Jan 1914
Strike reaches the end
The Dublin Lock-Out came to an end in January 1914 when ITGWU members were forced back to work to avoid starvation. Many also agreed to sign pledges not to join the ITGWU. The ITGWU was badly damaged, but not defeated. A dispirited Larkin departed for America later that year.
Outbreak of First World War
Two great alliances - the Éntente versus the German alliance - vied for domination of Europe between 1914-18. Over 200,000 men from Ireland took part in the fighting, most famously at Gallipoli and the Somme.
28 Jun 1914
Franz Ferdinand assassinated
One of the key triggers for war is believed to have been the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand who, along with his wife, were shot dead in Sarajevo by members of the Serbian Nationalist group, ‘The Black Hand’, causing a local confrontation between Serbia and Austria-Hungary. Austria-Hungary was backed militarily by its powerful ally the German Empire; while Serbia was backed by the Russian Empire (which was militarily allied to France and Britain). On the 28th July 1914 Austro-Hungary declared war on Serbia and a localised Balkan conflict now threatened to become a general European war.
04 Aug 1914
Britain declares war
Britain may have coped with a conflict confined to the southern European Balkans, but the German invasion of Belgium and France on the 3rd/4th August 1914 threatened the British government’s strategic interests. On August 4th, 1914, Britain declared war on the German Empire and, publicly, the British government declared its aim as the defence of the rights of small nations.
20 Sep 1914
The Woodenbridge speech
John Redmond, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, gave a speech at Woodenbridge, County Wicklow, on September 20th, 1914, declaring his support of the war and encouraging Irish men to fight for the British Army. Redmond’s speech split the Irish Volunteers: the pro-Redmond faction formed the National Volunteers, with approximately 160,000 men; the anti-Redmond group, of approximately 12,000 men, maintained the Irish Volunteers name. Some of these men would go on to fight the British Army in Dublin during the 1916 Easter Rising.
20 Sep 1914
He famously said
Speaking at Woodenbridge in September 1914, John Redmond said:
“I am glad to see such magnificent material for soldiers around me, and I say to you: ‘Go on drilling and make yourself efficient for the work, and then account yourselves as men, not only for Ireland itself, but wherever the fighting line extends, in defence of right, of freedom and religion in this war.”
01 Dec 1914
Another Redmond speaks up
Willie Redmond, brother of Irish Parliamentary Party leader John Redmond, became an inspiring figure on the battlefield and was revered by a large number of his fellow troops. He signed up to fight for the British Army in 1915 but had indicated his intention in December 1914 when he declared:
“I can't stand asking fellows to go and not offer myself.”
28 Jun 1919
In the end
The First World War, sometimes known as The Great War, would last for over four years and cost the lives of millions of people, including thousands of Irish men. A number of peace treaties were concluded in 1919 between the belligerents: the most famous was the Treaty of Versailles, between the Éntente and the German Empire on June 28th, 1919. In total, approximately 65 million people of all nations were mobilised during the war: over 8 million people died from the conflict and 21 million people were seriously wounded, while 6.5 million civilians were killed during the war.
The Easter Rising
A coalition of republican separatists seized the opportunity to reclaim the island from British rule while Britain was preoccupied with war overseas. The predominantly Dublin based battle saw over 400 die as the Easter rebels were defeated and the leaders of the Rising executed.
01 Jan 1915
Preparing a Rising
A Military Council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), including Sean MacDermott (left), was responsible for planning the Easter Rising, recruiting key men from the Irish Volunteers into its ranks. The Military Council hid their preparations from fellow IRB members who disagreed with a proposed Rising while other non-IRB members, including Sir Roger Casement, helped plan for the insurrection by approaching Germany for aid in the form of weapons and ammunition.
21 Apr 1916
20,000 rifles and ammunition, which would be used to arm volunteers outside of the capital, made its way to Ireland four days before the Rising on board The Aud ship. With no-one there to welcome the cargo, the ship’s captain found himself pursued by three vessels and scuttled the ship with the loss of the weapons.
24 Apr 1916
The IRB’s Military Council had organised mobilisation orders for the Irish Volunteers for Sunday 23rd April 1916 but the leader of the Irish Volunteers, Eoin MacNeill, suspected a plot to use the Volunteers for a rebellion and issued a countermanding order on the April 22nd. The Military Council of the IRB delayed the start of the Rising until Easter Monday, 24th April when Patrick Pearse, the Volunteers’ Director of Organisation, read aloud the Proclamation on the steps of the General Post Office.
24 Apr 1916
They famously said
The opening line of the Proclamation, as read by Patrick Pearse on the steps of the GPO:
“In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom.”
25 Apr 1916
Countess Constance Markievicz was one of the only women actively involved in fighting during the Easter Rising. She had an ambiguous role, but was appointed second-in-command to Michael Mallin at St Stephen’s Green. Following the Rising she was arrested and sentenced to death. This was later commuted to imprisonment, however, and she was subsequently released from prison in 1917.
29 Apr 1916
Evacuation and surrender
The week-long battle engulfed Dublin city and some of its most famous buildings. On Friday 29th April, under heavy bombardment from British artillery, the rebels fled the GPO. Realising the hopelessness of their situation, the rebel commanders decided to surrender on April 30th.
Battle of the Somme
The 36th (Ulster) and 16th (Irish) divisions went into battle against German forces in northern France in one of the fiercest battles of the First World War. Ulster men, in particular, made large sacrifices as they led the big push over the top on July 1st. In just two days of battle, the division had lost thousands of men through death and injury.
01 Jan 1916
Reality of war
The romantic image of war that so many young recruits had envisaged was cruelly shattered by the grim reality of trench warfare. For most, rival soldiers confronted each other from the relative safety of fortified trenches across a strip of earth known as no-man’s-land. By 1916, Kitchener’s Volunteer armies were trained and prepared for battle. The 36th (Ulster) Division was part of the first offensive use of the newly created mass British Army during the Battle of the Somme in the summer of 1916.
01 Jul 1916
Going 'over the top'
On July 1st, 1916, at 7.30am, the 36th (Ulster) Division were one of the first groups to go over the top of their trenches following an allied bombardment of the German lines. The consequence for the British Army was horrific. Of the 120,000 who advanced, 57,470 suffered casualties in the single greatest loss of men by the British Army in one day. The 36th (Ulster) Division was hit particularly hard with 5,500 dead, wounded or taken prisoner.
01 Jul 1916
On the morning of July 1st, 1916, Lurgan man Billy McFadzean was distributing bombs in preparation for the attack. The box slipped and two of the safety pins fell out as a result. Sensing the carnage it would cause his fellow comrades, McFadzean sacrificed his life and dived on the grenades. Only one other person was injured due to the action taken by McFadzean, who was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery.
03 Jul 1916
In the end
The 36th (Ulster) Division was able to capture their objective on the first day of the Somme, while suffering great casualties. The failure of other divisions of the British Army to be similarly successful left the 36th isolated and forced to retreat from their captured objective. They were eventually relieved from the front line on July 5th, 1916.
Lloyd George’s Convention
British Prime Minister David Lloyd George staged a convention to discuss how best to grant self-government to Ireland. However, the Convention was beset from the beginning by two fatal flaws.
01 Jun 1917
De Valera has other ideas
The separatist party Sinn Féin, which was rapidly gaining momentum under the leadership of Eamon de Valera, refused to attend the convention, which was held at Regent House in Dublin, weakening its authority and the chances of arriving at a widely accepted solution.
25 Jul 1917
Beginning on July 25th, 1917, the convention was made up of 95 representatives from Redmond’s Irish Parliamentary Party, Irish Unionists, members of local government authorities, clergymen from the Roman Catholic Church and Church of Ireland, and prominent members of Irish society. All of these groups had different assumptions and expectations of what they thought the convention could achieve.
06 Mar 1918
John Redmond, leader of the Irish Parliamentary party, died in London on March 6th, 1918. He was later replaced as leader of the Party by John Dillon. In Redmond’s last speech to the convention in early January 1918, he warned:
“Far better for us and the [British] Empire never to have met, than to have met and failed of an agreement.”
12 Apr 1918
Final report is delivered
A final report was delivered on April 12th, 1918, but the German spring offensive of 1918 was sorely testing the Allies on the Western Front. Lloyd George was determined to introduce conscription in Ireland (it had been in effect in Britain from 1916) and to simultaneously introduce Home Rule. On April 18th, 1918, conscription was introduced in Ireland, causing a renewed political crisis on the island. Despite nine months of deliberation the Irish Convention’s report was out-of-date within weeks of its publication.
Suffrage and General Election
1918 was a hugely significant year for politics in Ireland and Britain. The Representation of the People Act 1918 gave rise to votes for both men (aged 21 and over) and women (aged 30 and over and who owned property).
01 Feb 1918
She famously said
A militant suffragette and Irish nationalist, Hanna Sheehy Skeffington reminisced in later years, that:
“The [Suffragette] movement was a liberal education for all those who took part in it; it developed a new camaraderie among women, it lifted social barriers, it gave its devotees a new ideal, a revelation as of a new religion, it helped women to self-expression through service.”
06 Feb 1918
Voting rights increased
The 1918 Representation of the People Act gave the vast majority of men over the age of 21 the right to vote and also enfranchised female property owners aged over 30. In both Britain and Ireland the electorate was trebled by the legislation: in Britain the electorate increased from 8 million to 21 million; while in Ireland it increased from 800,000 to 2 million eligible voters.
14 Dec 1918
Sinn Féin's power increases
In December 1918, the United Kingdom general election produced a key moment in Irish history as the Irish Parliamentary Party trailed in the wake of the rising Sinn Féin who, under the leadership of Eamon de Valera, now held 73 seats in Westminster’s Parliament. Even John Dillon, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, failed to be re-elected.
01 Jan 1919
Dáil Éireann is established
Eamon de Valera and other Sinn Féin MPs refused to take their seats at Westminster, London. Instead they setup their own parliament in Dublin, known as Dáil Éireann, which declared Irish independence at its first meeting in Mansion House on the 21st January 1919.
21 Jan 1919
A new Declaration
Dáil Éireann at its first meeting adopted a Declaration of Independence, deliberately borrowing the title of the American Declaration of Independence of 1776. The Dáil’s Declaration stated:
“We solemnly declare foreign government in Ireland to be an invasion of our national right which we will never tolerate, and we demand the evacuation of our country by the English Garrison.”
21 Jan 1919
In the end
On the same day as the first meeting of Dáil Éireann, two RIC constables were shot dead in an ambush at Soloheadbeg, Co. Tipperary. This date is also, therefore, marked as the beginning of the Irish War of Independence, or Anglo-Irish War. There was no immediate decision for war between the British authorities and Dáil Éireann and only as violent conflict developed it became clear that a war was being waged. The Irish Volunteers also became recognised as the army of the Irish Republic and, subsequently, became known as the Irish Republican Army.
War Of Independence
The Irish War of Independence began on 21st January, 1919 – the same day that Dáil Éireann had issued a Declaration of Independence as an Irish Republic. It was a guerrilla war fought between the Irish Republican Army and British forces in Ireland.
21 Jan 1919
Beginning of the war
The War of Independence began with the attack and killing of two members of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), in County Tipperary, on 21st January, 1919. The Irish Republican Army, previously known as the Irish Volunteers, targeted the RIC and British Army barracks
01 Aug 1920
Black and Tans deployed
The British government reacted by recruiting two temporary forces in support of the RIC: the first was known as the ‘Black and Tans’ because of the improvised uniforms they wore; the second, ‘the Auxiliaries’ were recruited from August, 1920. Both forces were primarily recruited from amongst ex-soldiers, many of whom had fought in the First World War.
21 Nov 1920
One of the most brutal days in the War of Independence came on 21st November 21st, 1920, known as ‘Bloody Sunday’. Michael Collins, a driving force behind the War and the IRA’s Director of Intelligence, masterminded the assassination of 13 British intelligence officers and two civilians living in Dublin. Later that day, British Auxiliary forces attacked a football crowd at Croke Park killing 14, including one of the players, Michael Hogan, and wounding 65. In total, 41 people were killed across Ireland on November 21st.
01 Jul 1921
Fighting comes to an end
The war lasted for almost two and a half years during which time more than 1,300 people had lost their lives in the conflict. Both sides agreed to a ceasefire in July 1921 and signed the Anglo-Irish Treaty signed on 6th December 1921. Irish representatives in London for the signing included Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith.
07 Jul 1922
In the end
The Anglo-Irish Treaty saw the government of Dáil Éireann become the Provisional Government of Ireland, and it was this body which established the Irish Free State: a self-governing dominion within the British Empire. The Treaty was narrowly ratified by Dáil Éireann, but it led to a deep split between pro and anti-Treatyite factions. These two factions fought a bitter Civil War between June 1922 and May 1923. Northern Ireland, which was created under the Government of Ireland Act, had the ability to opt out of the Irish Free State, which it chose to do on the 7th December 1922.
Government of Ireland Act
The Government of Ireland Act was passed on the 23rd December 1920 and partitioned Ireland with the six counties of Ulster (which had a Protestant majority) becoming Northern Ireland and the remaining 26 counties becoming Southern Ireland.
Government of Ireland ActRead overview
23 Dec 1920
Proposal falls short
The intention of the Government of Ireland Act was to establish two separate Home Rule institutions within Ireland – with both still a part of the United Kingdom. Ulster Unionists were prepared to accept this outcome: a six-county Northern Ireland with a devolved administration and a majority Protestant population. But the proposal fell far short of what the Republican administration, Dáil Éireann, was prepared to accept.
Government of Ireland ActRead overview
The Anglo-Irish Treaty caused a split in the republican movement, leading to a civil war between pro-Treaty and anti-Treaty forces. Michael Collins led pro-Treaty government forces against De Valera’s anti-Treatyites for almost a year with up to 927 people losing their lives. The uneasy coalition of interests, which had constituted the republican movement and Sinn Féin at the time, was fractured.
09 Jan 1922
He famously said
When the Anglo-Irish Treaty was ratified on the 7th January 1922, Eamon de Valera resigned as President of the Republic two days later. Speaking in Dáil Éireann de Valera stated:
“I am against this Treaty not because I am a man of war but because I am a man of peace. I am against this Treaty because it will not end the centuries of conflict between the two nations of Great Britain and Ireland.”
14 Apr 1922
Dublin sees battle again
Over 200 anti-Treaty IRA members took hold of the Four Courts and other buildings in the heart of Dublin. In May 1922, Collins and de Valera agreed to an electoral pact in the hope this would stop the slide towards violent confrontation between republicans. However, following British pressure and the kidnap of a leading pro-Treaty General, Irish Free State forces began attacking the Four Courts. The anti-Treatyites surrendered after two days of shelling.
30 Jun 1922
Public records destroyed
During the bombardment of the Four Courts, the Irish Public Record Office was destroyed with the loss of records detailing centuries of Irish governments. It has been argued the records may have been destroyed by mines intentionally laid by anti-Treaty members as they evacuated.
20 Jul 1922
Violence across the country
The war was not just focused on Dublin however, with many towns and cities throughout the country engaged in battle, including Limerick which fell to the Free State forces on July 20th. Collins’ Free State forces held superior artillery and armour to that of de Valera’s Irregulars, and were able to defeat them in most instances.
30 Apr 1923
In the end
Following months of attacks and casualties, a ceasefire was called by Frank Aiken, the IRA’s Chief of Staff, in April 1923. This was followed a month later with his order for the IRA to dump their arms, indicating it was a fight they were incapable of winning. 927 people lost their lives during the bloody conflict. The principal protagonists in the civil war, Treatyites against anti-Treatyites, would form the basis for party political divisions in southern Ireland for decades to come.