Impact of World War I

World War One and the Impact on the Irish question

  • The war enabled all sides to agree to hold the issue whilst fighting the war
  • The Home Rule act was passed as an all Ireland measure
  • However, it was accompanied by a suspensory order which made it inoperable during war
  • The war had a positive effect originally on Anglo-Irish relations
  • Support for the war was almost universal from the start
  • Against the threat of German militarism, British rule seemed superior
  • Ulster rushed to fight for Britain
  • The rest of Ireland was less passionate, but the Catholics still fought and died for Britain
  • John Redmond saw the war as the ideal moment to demonstrate loyalty to Britain
  • He had taken over running of the Irish Volunteers before the war
  • He now used his influence to enter them into the war
  • He declared the Irish Volunteers would defend Ireland, freeing the regular army to fight the Germans
  • Later he urged them to fight abroad, this intended to reassure England of Irish loyalty
  • However, Redmond was tolerated by the leaders of the volunteers rather than respected
  • He was running a fine line of alienating himself from the Irish by urging them to fight for Britain

Easter Rising 1916

  • Support for the war effort split the National Volunteers
  • The majority reflected public opinion and supported Redmond
  • A minority saw the pro-war stance as collaboration with the British and a betrayal of Ireland’s claim to nationhood
  • To extreme nationalists the troubles faced by Britain in Europe gave the opportunity to strike for freedom
  • A small group planned the uprising and sought to set up and Irish Republic
  • Even if the revolution failed it would have shown the British that the Irish were unwilling to be ruled anymore

Outcome of the rising

  • The rebellion was ill planned
  • The plans were kept secret even from key personnel in order to maintain security
  • They counted on support from Germany to provide arms, which were intercepted and never arrived
  • There were far too few numbers of rebels
  • The rebels successfully overtook some key strategic positions in Dublin
  • However, the numbers were too few to do anything other than wait for the British reaction

Reaction to the rising

  • The rising had been almost universally condemned by the Irish
  • The rebels held the British Army for a week
  • Many rebels never saw any fighting before surrendering
  • The centre of Dublin was reduced to rubble by British artillery
  • The British showing their greater might
  • The potential for exploitation was used immediately
  • The Irish Nationals urging for leniency for the captured
  • 70 death sentences were initially passed, only 14 took place mainly of the leaders
  • As the executions took place the mood of the Irish population changed

The aftermath of the Rising

  • The leaders and those who had died in the rising became gradually seen as martyrs and heroic figures
  • The captured upon being marched to Dublin docks had been in need of army protection from angry Irish mobs
  • These same Irish people were now demanding their release
  • The government were in a difficult position in the war and needed to punish those who had committed treason
  • However, if the executions had not taken place then the feelings of the Irish nation would have been different
  • The protestants/unionists believed they had gotten what they deserved
  • The catholic/nationalists believed the British government had been too harsh

The government’s actions 1917-18

  • From the point of the uprising the prospect of a settlement were ended
  • Asquith, worried of the attitude of the USA towards Britain offered the immediate Home Rule of southern Ireland without the Ulster region
  • David Lloyd George went to Dublin in May 1917 to start negotiations, hoping his skills could arrange an agreement between Edward Carson and John Redmond
  • Lloyd George told both what they wanted to hear, he promised Redmond the exclusion of Ulster would be temporary, Carson he promised permanent
  • Most Republican groups now combined under Sinn Fein and refused to enter negotiations in July 1917
  • Lloyd George extended conscription to Ireland, promising Home Rule in return
  • This united opposition against the British government
  • Irish Nationalists withdrew from the House of Commons and joined with Sinn Fein
  • Even Irish Catholic Bishop’s urged the Irish to refuse conscription
  • The conscription issue in Ireland failed to raise the troops required and actually became so hostile that troops needed to stationed in Ireland to keep peace
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