by ehistoryadmin on April 28, 2018

Nationalist & Leinster Times 27 April 1918

Athy’s Protest against Conscription

Than Tuesday’s anti-conscription and labour demonstration in Athy no greater manifestation of the man-power of the town and district was witnessed since Parnell was in the hey-day of his influence. In weighing up the insignificance of Tuesday’s demonstration the fact should be taken into consideration that it was practically spontaneous. There was no time to advertise arrangements and practically no programme had been prepared, those in charge of the event depending on circumstances to develop themselves.

No train arrived in Athy on Tuesday; no business house opened; workshops were closed; there were crowded congregations at the morning Masses. As the afternoon advanced people seemed to spring up from nowhere and the broad thoroughfare of the town became densely thronged. It was a bold move of the Trades Congress to proclaim the one-day strike. The government of the country was paralysed. Never in our history was the aphorism that government rests on the consent and good will of the people more powerfully illustrated. For the first time in our generation was brought home to the minds of us all a true conception of the mighty strength of an united Ireland.

Shortly after 3 o’clock a serious effort was made to evolve order out of the chaos. Mr. J. Bergin, Mr. Martin Doyle, Mr. Michael Dooley, Mr. Wm. Mahon worked energetically and quickly got the procession into shape. First came the Athy Pipers Band and immediately following them was a contingent of from three to four hundred women. The South Kildare Labour Union, at least 500 strong, with banner and band followed, and in the order indicated came contingents from Ballyroe and Churchtown, with band and banner; Kilcruise (Thomas Ashe S.F. Club), with band; Athy Fife and Drum Band; Ballyadams and Ballintubber hear (sic) with banner inscribed ‘For Faith and Fatherland.’ The parade though originally designed to typify the power of labour, embraced all classes. At a moderate computation between four and five thousand people were present in Athy.

To a person standing on the row of the Barrow bridge the spectacle was an exhilarating one. The afternoon was one borrowed from summer and the air was melodious with roll of drum and plaint and sound of fife. Away down the street were the serried ranks of men, and in the background, though overshadowing the entire spectacle was the tangible thought that Ireland had at long length arrived at the realisation of its power. It is questionable if the English Prime Minister has ever heard of Athy, but had he been an eye-witness of Tuesday’s demonstration of latent power he might well have re-echoed the exclamation of his more exalted namesake, whose angry remark on being informed of the prowess of the Irish at Fontenoy was ‘Cursed be the laws which deprive me of such subjects.’

After the parade, Mr. Peter P. Doyle delivered a short address, drawing the moral of the display of strength they had just witnessed, counselling unity of purpose and action, and advising the crowd to disperse peaceably. Half an hour afterwards the streets, which had been throbbing with life all the morning, presented their usual hum-drum appearance.

At Castledermot

Practically the entire population of Castledermot parish assembled on Sunday in a field outside the town, kindly given by Mr. R. Lalor, and declared for the Covenant to resist conscription. The local band attended and played national airs. Very Rev. Wm. Duggan, P.P., presided and delivered a very stirring address.

The following letter was read and was received with loud cheering:-

‘The Rectory, Castledermot, 21st April, 1918.

Dear Father Duggan – I desire to thank the committee for their courteous invitation to be present on this occasion. Though not seeing my way to be present owing to the meeting being held on a Sunday, while quite recognising that the urgency of the occasion precluded the choice of another day. I desire to protest against the inclusion of Ireland in the conscription proposals of the Man Power Bill. I object to conscription as the first step on the way to militarism which I cordially detest, and the workings of which are so manifest at the present day. War is the negation of Christianity, and that being so, to compel a man to take part in operations which his conscience abhors is to do violence to his moral nature, and hence I am opposed to conscription. But further to impose this burden upon Ireland at the present time in opposition to the expressed wishes of the majority of her representatives, I believe to be not only  unjust, but entirely opposed to the principles of self-determination upon which President Wilson lays such stress and for which the Entente Powers are supposed to be fighting. I trust therefore that the Government will not be so ill-advised as to try to enforce this measure on the Irish people, thereby causing certain bitterness and ill-feeling, and possibly bloodshed. In conclusion, might I say that in these anxious times I trust the people may be guided by the counsels of their possible advisors, and that nothing will be done rashly of which either our country or the  individuals concerned may have reason to be ashamed?

  • Yours very sincerely,
  • (Rev.) Henry A.D. Barbor, M.A.

P.S. – I hope I may have an opportunity later on in connection with my co-religionists who dislike this measure of registering my protest against it. H.A.D.B.

The other speakers were – Rev. F.J. Sheridan, C.C., Messrs. John Conlan, Co.C., Richard Lalor, Co.C., Eugene Byrne and J. S. Aylmer.






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