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Letter from Irish parliamentary Party Leader John Redmond commenting on the treatment of Irish prisoners in 1916
(Catalogue ref: CAB 37/160/31)
  • This letter was written by John Redmond, the Irish Parliamentary Party (or National Party) leader, to the British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith in November 1916. The letter gives a clear indication that Redmond is concerned about the state of Ireland and his own political party.
  • When the Great War broke out in 1914 Redmond urged Irish Volunteers to join the British army. Thousands did, but many Nationalists felt that Redmond was wrong to encourage Irishmen to join a British army.
  • Redmond represented a moderate constitutional strand of Irish Nationalism. As the war went on, the more extreme strand of Nationalism became stronger in Ireland. The extreme Nationalists were Republicans. This meant that they wanted total independence from Ireland - not Home Rule or Dominion status or any continued association with the British empire.
  • The Republicans had their own underground secret service called the Irish Republican Brotherhood. They also had their own political party called Sinn Fein.
  • In April 1916, during Easter Week, Republicans took over the centre of Dublin. They took the British forces completely by surprise. It took a week of fighting to get them to surrender. The centre of the city was wrecked and many civilians were killed or injured in the fighting.
  • After the rising, the British executed 15 of the leaders. The only senior commander who survived was Eamon de Valera. The executions caused outrage. The British regarded these men as traitors, but many Irish people saw them as prisoners of war. They resented Irish men being executed for treason to the British Crown.
  • The British took other rebels prisoner and rounded up people all over Ireland whom they suspected of being rebels. In total, this was 1,841 people. The British also put Ireland under military law with strict restrictions on people’s freedom to move around the country.
  • Historians disagree about how much support the extremists had before the Rising. However, they generally agree that the actions of the British after the Rising made people in Ireland bitter and greatly increased support for Sinn Fein and the extreme Nationalists.
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