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1916 letter: Redmond’s volunteers were not all nationalists

I noticed that your recent reviews of the two RTE television showpiece series on the 1916 Rising - the tortured drama “Rebellion” and the narrative account “Rising” - failed to notice a glaring inaccuracy repeated in both as fact.

This is the assertion that the great majority of the 150,000 members of the National Volunteers loyal to John Redmond rejected the call of a minority to oppose the war and enlisted in the British Army to fight in 1914-18.

But according to the undisputed official figures - repeated on the website of the Department of the Taoiseach - a total of just over 28,000 national volunteers joined the British Army throughout the entire war. That was about 20% of its membership at the time.

The vast majority of Irish recruits came not from this Irish nationalist political formation at all but firstly overwhelmingly from the urban poor motivated largely by material need and secondly from the unionist population motivated by its sense of British patriotism.

There is extensive historical testimony to these facts in Pádraig Yeates’ excellent social history, “Dublin: A City at War 1914-18”.

The great majority of the Irish National Volunteers failed to follow Redmond’s call.

Philip O’Connor

55 St. Peter’s Tce.

Howth

Dublin

D13 X220

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