LEINSTER LEADER EDITORIAL 1 JANUARY 1916

by ehistoryadmin on January 2, 2016

Leinster Leader Saturday, 1 January, 1916

A YEAR’S HISTORY

The close of the year 1915 marks the end of a year that will go down to posterity as one of the most historic in the world’s history, and a period unexampled and unparalleled in the annals of the world’s wars in its bloody character and far-reaching consequences. These consequences and changes which we witness being effected in the battlefields of the continent are not felt yet, but in all human possibility they cannot be much further delayed by the termination of a conflict so widespread in devastation and so exhaustive in effect. It is not, perhaps inappropriate, therefore, that we should, at the close of such a year, when such epoch-marking events are convulsing Europe, pause for a moment on the threshold of the New Year and glance back over the year that has gone and recall some of the more outstanding events, whether of local or general importance, ere they fade into the mists of the past. The year 1914 will be remembered as that of the outbreak of the great war, but 1915 will, in all probability, obtain a place in history as the year in which occurred some of the chief events affecting the course of the war and its culmination in shaping the destinies of the nations and empires concerned. What effect these changes in the warring States and Empires of the Europe will have on the future of our own country is a reflection which is here forced upon us, especially when we recall the martial mood in which Ireland found itself when suddenly the tocsin of war sounded from central Europe and transferred the eyes of the world to the kindling of the flame which has Europe ablaze today. The volunteer movement was then in full strength, but the call of the reservists to the colours and the split which subsequently occurred soon left the ranks of the National Volunteers sadly depleted, so that when the year 1915 opened, many of the men who formed the rank and file of the National Volunteers, and who acted as drill instructors, &c., were sleeping in soldiers graves in France and Flanders. It was, under circumstances like these, that the Rt. Hon. the Earl of Mayo distinguished himself by uttering the cheap sneer at the Volunteers, from his place in the House of Lords, to the effect that the Volunteers would run away if confronted with an enemy in the field. The indignation which this aroused all over the country makes it worthy of recall here, as one of the first remarkable incidents which marked the opening of the new year at home, arising from the war and home politics. In recalling this incident it is worthwhile to notice that the calibre of the men who were thus singled out for this contemptible remark was subsequently put to the test in Gallipoli and Servia, and well they not alone sustained the fighting prowess of their race, but gave practical proof of the injustice of the taunt and the unworthy motives that inspired it. As to the general progress of the operations of the war, and their effects at home, it will be remembered that the year was not very old when the exposure with reference to the effectiveness, or rather ineffectiveness, of the ammunition supplied to the British artillery at the front gave the Northcliffe press and its supporters the opportunity of breaking the political truce at home, and launching the campaign against the Government and the War Office, which culminated in the formation of a munitions department at the head of which Mr. Lloyd George was placed. It was about this period that the Irish Industrial Development Association seized the opportunity with some success for bringing pressure to bear on the Government to entitle Ireland to compete for War contracts for army supplies. The establishment of munitions works in the metropolis and other parts of the country, giving much needed employment, is another outcome of this episode in British Party politics, which has brought some benefit to this country. In the second month of the year occurred those submarine raids along the eastern coast of England and into the Irish sea, and which for the time being so seriously menaced the safety of travel and communication between England and Ireland. The exploits of these submarines in visiting the Southern and Western sea coasts formed the sensations of the hour in thus bringing the state of war existing between the Allies and the Central Powers practically home to our own shores. The upward tendency of prices for provisions and necessaries about this time also became more marked in their general effects. In turning to domestic politics at home, we find the effects of the North King’s County election manifesting themselves in those exciting debates and controversies at public meetings and in the press which marked the period. The return of Mr. Graham, and the defeat of the rigged convention system of securing the return of party men, was an event of first class importance in Irish political history, as it struck a blow at a system which the times did not warrant, and the fact that the convention was abandoned in two subsequent elections affords eloquent evidence of the difficulty of resurrecting the system, notwithstanding that it is yet proclaimed as part and parcel of the political machinery by which the Irish Party is fashioned. Another event of importance in Irish political history was the great muster of National Volunteers in the Phoenix Park in the month of April, when the numerical strength of the National Volunteers was demonstrated by the presence of thousands of corps from all parts of the country. Only a small proportion of them, however, were armed or equipped, but the muster all the same had potent effects in demonstrating the ramifications of the movement in all parts of the country, and as a political rather than a military organisation it served its purpose. We doubt however, if anything like the number that then mustered could be got together again for such purposes, because besides those who have since given their services to the British army, many have fallen away from the movement, while others have been absorbed by a rival organisation, more military in its character, and more serious in its purpose. The State entry of his Excellency Lord Wimborne into Dublin as Viceroy of Ireland and the famous war budget which sought to put a destructive tax on Irish industries, were also events which for the time being commanded attention. Although desperate conflicts and bloody battles took place at different points at the front, it was no until the loss of the Lusitania occurred that public feeling was roused and stirred to its depths. This event, occurring in April, will be remembered, perhaps, as one of the most terrible events of the war, involving as it did the cruel and callous destruction of hundreds of lives of non-combatants, and of innocent women and children of Irish and American nationality. War, no doubt, is terrible, and the destruction of the Lusitania may be argued as justifiable from the German standpoint, but the sacrifice of the lives of those helpless passengers must ever remain a blot upon the German navy. The formation of the Coalition Government was the outstanding political event of the year. The announcement of its formation was both unexpected and sensational, and although justified by Cabinet Ministers as calculated to more firmly bind and unite the country in the prosecution of the war, it by no means brought general confidence. Its continued security, having regard to the diverse elements which constituted it, was doubted, and as to its effect in Ireland, it was regarded (with what degree of truth or justice remains for the future to show) as an abandonment of Home Rule by the disappearance of the Government, which carried the Home Rule Bill to the Statue Book, and there left it inoperative until the conclusion of the war. The inclusion of Sir Edward Carson in the Cabinet, and the scramble of some of his followers for office and emolument, were features of this great political change which are, no doubt, still fresh in the public mind. But notwithstanding the forebodings of the political prophets the Coalition Government still holds together, it has shed some of its more irreconcilable elements. Sir Edward Carson has resigned and from the scattered remnants of the other broken and disappointed political parties has aided in evolving a new Opposition which, no doubt, will have behind it the support of the Northcliffe combination. The shibboleths of the new Opposition for the moment are Conscription and a General Election. The entrance of Italy into the war on the side of the Allies, and Bulgaria on the side of the Central Powers, were two epoch-making events of the year; while the dash to the Dardanelles, the failure to force them, and latterly the withdrawal of the expeditionary force from Gallipoli, will all have their appointed place in the history of the war when it comes to be written. The recruiting campaign, the revival of the U.I.L organisation throughout the country inaugurated by the great public meeting in the Mansion House in November, the emigration incidents at Liverpool, and the controversy arising there from by the publication of the Bishop of Limerick’s letter are all events of too recent occurrence to need more than recapitulation without further comment here. The year has been one full of stirring incidents and rapidly moving events at home and abroad: and although the prevailing feeling is optimistic for the cause of the Allies, a feeling which no doubt will be encouraged and accentuated by the message brought some weeks ago from the front by Mr. John Redmond, and by that more recently addressed to his subjects by King George himself. The coming spring will, it, is expected, witness a renewal of hostilities on a larger and more extended scale, and the progress of these operations must have a determining effect in bringing the war to a close. They will, therefore, be awaited and watched with world-wide anxiety, and we must leave to the future to disclose to us on which side victory will smile.

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