From Forward, August 1, 1914.
Transcribed by The James Connolly Society in 1997.
As I am writing all the people of Ireland are agog with excitement over events in Dublin. The first shots of the threatened civil war have at length been fired, and the streets of an Irish city have run red with the blood of Irishmen. But contrary to all the threats, omens and portents, it was not an Ulster city that witnessed calamity; it was not the blood of Ulstermen that was shed in defence of their rights and liberties. It was only the blood of common ordinary Irishmen who dared to fancy that what was sauce for the Orange goose was also sauce for the Nationalist gander.
On Sunday, 26th July, the Irish Volunteers brought off successfully a gunrunning coup of their own at Howth, near Dublin. A few thousand Volunteers marched out from Dublin and took possession of the village. Sentries were posted on all the roads leading into Dublin, telegraph and telephone wires were earthed, and every military precaution was taken to secure freedom from interruption by the authorities.
When the regiments had successfully taken possession of the harbour, signals were sent to a yacht that was standing off the coast, and the yacht, steered by an unknown lady, entered in and commenced to discharge a cargo of rifles. The local customs chief and the head of the police force in the district attempted to interfere at this juncture, but were quietly warned off at the point of loaded revolvers. A quantity of rifles, variously estimated at from 2,000 to 4,000, with corresponding ammunition, was landed and dispatched and then the Volunteers present proceeded to march back in military order to the city, each man carrying his newly acquired rifle, but no ammunition.
The police, who were helpless, marched along with the battalions without making any effort to disturb or intercept the march. But some cyclist had managed to slip past the volunteer sentries and bring the news to Dublin Castle. The authorities there hastily despatched a regiment of soldiers, the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, apparently with orders to seize the rifles and break up the march.
These soldiers met the returning Volunteers near Fairview, and drawing across the roadway demanded the surrender of the rifles and the disbandment of the parade. Although surrounded by police and confronted by soldiery, the Volunteers refused to give up their arms, and after a brief altercation the military fired and then charged with fixed bayonets. Having foolishly neglected to retain their ammunition, the Volunteers could only defend themselves with the butt-ends of their rifles against the bayonets of the soldiery. Hence the conflict was but one-sided. The soldiers captured about 20 rifles, all the rest being got safely away. It is also stated that a quantity of rifles was wrenched from the hands of the soldiers by the people.
Then the soldiers after this ‘brilliant victory’ marched back to the city, accompanied all the way by a crowd of angry demonstrators, furious at the wanton slaughter of Dubliners for daring to exercise a right which the Carsonites had freely exercised less than 24 hours previously in Belfast.
Passing through the centre of the city the crowd increased in numbers and in indignation. Stones were thrown, a few soldiers were jostled, and suddenly, without a moment’s warning, an officer wheeled his company across the roadway and ordered them to fire with ball cartridges upon the people. No Riot Act was read, no Magistrate was present, no warning was given, but before the people could realise their danger, the volley was sent flying into the midst of the multitude in that crowded, narrow thoroughfare. The hired assassins had obeyed orders. It is a soldier’s duty to obey orders – except when the soldier is an officer ordered to act against his class instincts.
Stated baldly these are the facts of Sunday’s work in Dublin. For the past two years the aristocrats of the Tory Party have been preaching rebellion against constituted authority. For two years they have been training and arming a rebel army – an army to rebel against the mandate of the democracy of these islands. Their conduct has continually been connived at by the Government, and each fresh connivance has led them on to fresh acts of aggression and organised intimidation. They held up three seaport towns, made prisoners of the King of England’s constabulary and coastguardmen, interfered with the railway system, the telegraphs, and telephones, and took unlawful possession of passengers upon the King’s highway.
Finally, upon Saturday, 25th July, they paraded through the streets of Belfast in military array, armed with rifles and escorting Maxim and other machine guns. All this they were allowed to do with perfect impunity; indeed, their chiefs in the midst of their illegalities were granted special indications of Royal favour.
Upon the top of this the Irish Volunteers make an effort to equip themselves with arms, so that they, the most popular body in Ireland, should not also be the most unprotected. Who can question their wisdom in resolving to protect themselves, as the Government would grant them no protection? But immediately this attempt was made, police and military are ordered out, a bayonet charge is made upon the Volunteers, and volley firing with ball cartridges is practiced upon unarmed crowds in the streets of the capital city. At the time of writing, four persons have been killed, and about 80 wounded as a result of the few minutes blood lust of those in command of the soldiery on Sunday.
What a grim comment upon the so-called impartiality of the Liberal Government! What a telling indictment of the whole system of class rule upon which the Government of these islands is conducted. What a striking refutation of the theory that what is sauce for the Ulster goose would be sauce for the Irish gander. Here we have a demonstration – a demonstration written in blood – that the ruling classes of those countries are one in heart and sentiment, whether they call themselves Tory or Liberal; that in the last analysis the rule of the classes is founded upon the sword, and that no petty quarrel amongst themselves over methods of ruling is going to make them tolerate the idea of guns getting into the hands of slaves who cannot be trusted to use them in the interests of their masters. Liberal and Tory may quarrel over methods by which class rule should be maintained, but Liberal and Tory are at one in the determination that maintained it must be, and that no effective organisations of force should be allowed amongst those who might question it or destroy it. The Dublin workers have strewn in the near past that they are not willing slaves, political or social, and that not even the necessity of the struggle for political freedom can make them abandon their individual liberties, or weaken their fearless democracy. Hence it became imperative in the interests of the ruling tyrants that these guns should be prevented from remaining in the hands of such men. It was felt that even John Redmond might not be able to resist the appeal for a forward move made by men with guns in their hands, and it was realised that this concept of an armed democracy, inspired by democratic ideas and stirred by social unrest, was a menace to the class rule for which governments exist. Hence the attempt to disarm the Volunteers of Dublin and hence the fresh massacre of the Dublin workers.
Brave, heroic, Dublin! Ever battling for the right, ever suffering, ever consecrating by the blood of your children the weary milestones of the path of progress. A year ago the Capitalist class let loose its wolves and slanderers upon you, jailed, batoned and murdered your sons and daughters, but were unable to destroy your holy aspirations for freedom. Today the Government of that class once more spring at your throat; once more the blood of your children is shed in the streets, and even some of your misguided children who cheered on that Government in its outrage of a year ago are now ruthlessly slaughtered by that same Government.
Magnificent Dublin! As you emerged with spirit unbroken and heart undaunted from your industrial tribulation, so you will arise mightier and more united from the midst of the military holocaust with which this Government of all the treacheries meets your plans for political freedom.
Labour will not be swept off its feet in this crush. But Labour sees that all its antagonisms to this Government were more than justified, hears now that even the critics of Labour unite in declaring that no more unscrupulous Government ever held sway in this country, and that the only real hope of the people is in the strength of the people. For
Behind all kings and governments, all presidents and law,
Last updated on 14.8.2003