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Local Studies Department

WORLD WAR I: Chapter 4 - Recruitment at Home

Political Atmosphere

In the following chapter the changing mood in Ireland during the period 1914 - 1916 is analysed for the purpose of establishing a picture as to why recruitment suffered so badly towards the end and in the middle of this period. A continuing decline afterwards is also looked at.

The first intimation that something was wrong came with a change of government in mid-1915, which led to the appointment of Sir Edward Carson as Attorney General. At a meeting of Kildare County Council, members expressed their opinion of this move as:

“a direct insult to the great majority of Irishmen, and must express our surprise that leading statesmen in England should sanction such a course at a time when thousands of Irish Nationalists are sacrificing their lives to maintain the integrity of the British Empire.”
Kildare Observer-5 June, 1915

The existence of this new Government essentially meant the suspension of any possibility for Home Rule in Ireland.

Carson, as leader of the Irish Unionist Party, abhorred any idea of Home Rule as “Rome Rule” and was determined to take the Act off the Statute Book. His appointment was seen as a direct betrayal of all promises to Redmond and the Irish Parliamentary Party on Ireland’s entry into the War.

From this moment on enthusiasm for the war waned to a level that required strong organisation at a local level. Individuals no longer felt they were fighting their own battle but that of a power which had broken an express promise.