A SURVEY OF 1916

by ehistoryadmin on December 16, 2016

LEINSTER LEADER December 30 1916

A SURVEY OF 1916

The year just closing will go down to posterity as, perhaps, the most historic of the great war, containing as it does what may prove to be some of its most important and dramatic chapters, and a glance back at some of the outstanding events that go to make up these may not, therefore, be regarded as inopportune or devoid of interest. The year 1914 will be remembered as that in which the gigantic struggle began and this in itself will serve to make it epoch-marking, but to 1916 will belong some of its most extraordinary and sensational developments, and in contra-distinction to 1914 it mayhap mark the opening of the closing chapter that will bring the war to an end. But besides the war there are just one or two events occurring during the year now almost closed that deserve to be recalled in a brief survey such as this. It will be remembered that the year opened with the economy campaign, advising the public to refrain as much as possible from luxuries of all kind and to practice thrift. In like manner we were warned of the probable effects of scarcity and increased prices of food-stuffs of all kinds, and the necessity of having more of the land cultivated. The confused and inconsistent methods practiced by the responsible authorities to have this advice acted upon was commented upon at the time in these columns and formed the subject of letters to the press and speeches from different platforms. The tenour of these was that the vacant and uncultivated land in Ireland which the people sought to have redistributed would be sufficient to feed the nation and leave a surplus which would go far to meet the shortage in Great Britain ; by the Board of Works – an administrative body created to assist them – were refused the loans they were entitled to, to drain and improve the food producing capacity of the land and by the Department for assistance in the purchase of up-to-date agricultural implements to facilitate them. All this was done in the interests of economy for war purposes. Next the educational grants were stopped, while over-manned and salaried services were passed unnoticed by the economists. This confusion and inconsistency in effecting economy has been finding an echo latterly in the demand for military conscription of the manhood of the country, while at the same time the extensions of tillage is called for and all this at a moment when, through shortage of labour, a partially ruined harvest is rotting in the fields. As to events directly concerned with the war, the attitude of America at the beginning as well as at the end of the year was a subject of much speculation and concern to the entente nations. The interpretation of what was contraband of war gave rise to much irritation between the States and England, until at length a satisfactory understanding put an end to a very vexed situation. In like manner the entanglement of the United States with Germany concerning the sinking of the Lusitania created an International situation which kept the watching world on the tip-toe of expectancy for new developments full of sensation. In February the opening of Parliament and the statement of Mr. Asquith surveying the chief events of the war up to that time were looked forward to with much public interest, but they were disappointing in the absence of incident of any kind beyond the bare ordinary formalities of the former and the reticence of the then premier in taking the House or the country into his confidence on the course of events on the different fronts. This lack of detail and the suspicions to which it gave rise were, perhaps, the originating causes of the developments which have since led to the collapse of the Coalition Government, and the supersession of Mr. Asquith by Mr. Lloyd George as premier. It was in this month, too, that Mr. John Redmond as Chairman of the Irish Party and Leader of the Irish race at home and abroad published his famous recruiting manifesto to the Irish people appealing for recruits for the Irish regiments of the British army. In view of the recent severe weather we have experienced, it is interesting to recall that it was at that period we had a very heavy snow fall, and a succession of many weeks of abnormally cold weather which seriously interfered with the spring sowing season. In the months of March the establishment of a national shell factory in Dublin and subsidiary munitions works throughout the country were subjects of much public discussion by politicians and promises on the part of the Government. These discussions and promises, it will be noticed, are being revived again just now, and how far they are going to materialise is still in the lap of the gods. The month of March also saw a rapid growth of the anti-taxation movement, and the big meeting held at the Mansion House to protest against the future fleecing of this country for war purposes. The death of the late Mr. Wm. Delaney, M.P. for Queen’s Co., deeply lamented, was an event of importance, leading as it did to the stimulation of local political activity and excitement in filling the Parliamentary vacancy thus created. The huge war budget of nearly two billions, with a deficit of nearly a billion and a half, was a historic financial event in April, which month also saw Punchestown races held as usual, although shorn of much of its one-time sporting and social splendour. The out-standing event of the year in Ireland was of course the outbreak which occurred in Dublin and in several other places throughout the country, including the midlands and South and West of Ireland. Mr. Asquith’s subsequent visit to this country and his historic declaration that Dublin Castle administration had hopelessly broken down (only, however, to be revived a few weeks later), the attempts of Mr. Lloyd George to settle the Irish Question on the basis of the partition of six of the Ulster Counties, all follow in regular succession until the famous convention in Belfast, personally attended by Mr. Redmond, which although it endorsed the partition policy failed to find support in the country and thus put an end to the partitionist policy. In July the reconstruction of Dublin Castle administration and the branch between the Government and the Irish Party took place. This month will also be remembered as that in which Roumania entered into the war with the consequences which since followed. The developments in the military situation in the Near East in the months of August and September, including the invasion of Servia, Roumania, and the difficulties created by the attitude of Greece, will all find their due place in the history of the Great War. September and October were remarkable for the adverse weather conditions prevailing for harvesting operations, and, which led to enormous loss, and a serious reduction all round in the harvest. The month of September also witnessed the celebrations of the great Dominican centenary of the foundation The Order in Ireland. While, as we have already pointed out, partially ruined harvests were still rotting in the open fields owing to the need of the necessary labour caused by extensive recruiting and other causes, the cry for conscription in Ireland was again raised by Unionist politicians. Sir Edward Carson was not then in the Cabinet but latterly this demand has modified. The famous Waterford speech by Mr. Redmond was also one of the principal political events of the year. The recent sensational events, including the collapse of the Coalition Government and its reconstruction, the proposed discussion of peace terms by Germany, the American Note demanding a definition of the objects for which belligerents are fighting are all of too recent occurrence we need more than mere recapitulation here without comment. It will be see, however, that it is a year full of tragic and dramatic situations and developments fast following each other, so that we have had scarcely time to take in and understand one before the other came along with cinematographic like effect, to maintain our excitement and anxiety at a high pitch. We hope that closing as it does with the harbingers of peace arriving to mark the close of the old year, that the New Year will dawn bright and promising for an early return to them paths of peace and prosperity which all must yearn for.

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