Continuing our look behind the scenes at how the Rising was being planned and what we know about those involved, 100 years ago this week: February 22 – 27, 1916.
Many of the main players featured regularly in newspapers of the time, but most of these activities did not feature in the news and are only now known from information held in archives.
Monday February 21, 1916:
- Following the slap on the wrist of a one-shilling court fine for Irish Volunteers full-time organiser and publisher of Fianna Fáil newspaper Terence MacSwiney, concerns were raised in the mind of the RIC Inspector General Neville Chamberlain about the organisation’s growing influence.
“Already, as exemplified by the action of Justices at Cork Police Court, who though no Sinn Féiners dismissed charges brought against Irish Volunteers under the Defence of the Realm Regulations, which were clearly proved, they appear to have acquired more influence,” he wrote in a report to Dublin Castle in March.
- MacSwiney had been charged with making a speech likely to cause disaffection to the King and hostility to His Majesty’s Government at Ballynoe, Co Cork, on January 2, and with having a cypher capable of conveying military or naval information at his home in the city’s Victoria Road when he was arrested 11 days later.
- Liam de Róiste, a Cork city Irish Volunteers activist and friend of MacSwiney recorded in his diary: “The ‘popular’ magistrates knew they dare not convict, if they would retain popularity.” The case against Thomas Kent of Castlelyons, Fermoy, relating to the event at Ballynoe was adjourned for a week.
Tuesday February 22, 1916:
- The shop of veteran Fenian Tom Clarke at Parnell St in Dublin was visited by Edward Daly, and Seán MacDiarmada, Clarke’s co-conspirator on the Irish Republican Brotherhood Military Council that had already set Easter Sunday on April 23 as the date for the Rising to start. The Irish Volunteers headquarters at 2 Dawson St, Dublin, were visited by four of the men who would be executed after the Rising: Eamonn Ceannt, Seán MacDiarmada, Thomas MacDonagh, and Michael O’Hanrahan. Also attending meetings there, according to Dublin Metropolitan Police detectives, were Volunteers founder Bulmer Hobson, James Whelan, Herbert Mellows, and Thomas McCarthy. McCarthy was an organiser for the growing armed militia, and had spent several weeks helping to set up and organise Volunteers companies in Co Cork in late 1915.
- Gaelic League offices at 25 Rutland Square (now Parnell Square) were the location of a meeting between Michael Joseph O’Rahilly, Seán T Ó Ceallaigh, Seán McGarry, and Patrick Pearse. O’Rahilly, known as ‘the O’Rahilly’, would later be killed after being shot in a laneway off Moore St after the evacuation of the GPO in the later stages of the Rising.
Wednesday February 23, 1916:
- Police saw Tom Clarke leaving Dublin, possibly on his way to recuperate in Limerick from a gunshot wound received accidentally at the end of January.
The DMP believed his lengthy absence from his shop had been due to a cold…
- Clarke also met on this date with Seán MacDiarmada, also planning the Rising with him, and IRB Supreme Council member Diarmuid Lynch who had helped identify Fenit in Co Kerry for the proposed landing of German guns. Clarke’s shop was visited by his aide, Seán McGarry — the man who shot him a few weeks earlier — and by Con Colbert and Edward Daly, two others who would be executed after the Rising, along with Clarke.
- An article in The Gael, one of the ‘mosquito press’ being closely monitored by police, said “Remember England holds you in slavery by having a few policemen in every village. See that there is man for man at least… the time is short, perhaps too short.”
Friday February 25, 1916:
- James Connolly was seen leaving Dublin by train by DMP detectives. This may have coincided with a trip he made to Belfast around this time, where he told local members of the Irish Volunteers: “It is a mistake to fight only in the country — fight in the towns,” pointing out that there would be a plentiful food supply in urban areas. One man there, James Smyth, told the Bureau of Military History in 1949: “I believe that the main purpose of the lecture was to impress on the Belfast Volunteers the imminence of an armed rising taking place.”
100 Irish Volunteers carrying guns and pikes marched up and down several times during a recruiting meeting at Stuake near Donoughmore, Co Cork. Police reported a crowd of 40 people stood cheering “Up Sinn Féin”.
- Earlier, freshly-posted anti- recruiting notices were found, advising a boycott of the British Army and carrying a copy of the Bishop of Limerick’s ‘notorious letter’ saying Irishmen have no interest in the war.
Sunday February 26, 1916:
- 60 Irish Volunteers interrupted a military recruiting meeting at Moycullen, Co Galway, forcing their way through it. The leader was prosecuted under the Defence of the Realm Regulations and jailed.
- DMP reported “about 150 Sinn Féin Volunteers” assembling at 41 Rutland Square, under command of Edward Daly and Joseph McGuinness.
Digitised copies of the Dublin Metropolitan Police ‘Movement of Extremists’ files for the corresponding dates in 1916 are uploaded regularly to the National Archives of Ireland website – www.nationalarchives.ie (@narireland).
Read some events from the period at the Military Archives timeline, and witness statements made by participants in the Rising www.militaryarchives.ie (Twitter @dfarchives).
Among the other sources used in this diary are monthly reports of the Royal Irish Constabulary inspector general and county inspectors, viewed in UCC’s Boole Library’s Special Collections department (@theriversideUCC).
— Compiled by Niall Murray