Section 6: The Irish Volunteers

The growing strength of the Ulster Volunteer Force alarmed those supporting Home Rule. They feared the threat of armed revolt by the Ulster Volunteers would persuade the government to drop plans for Home Rule. Nationalists established the Irish Volunteers in November 1913 to press for home rule, by force if necessary. Like the Ulster Volunteers the Irish Volunteers illegally acquired arms from Germany in 1914. The Irish Volunteers had over 100,000 members by summer 1914. Down County Museum’s collection of historic photographs includes a group of photographs of Irish Volunteers taken by Loughinisland photographer, Thomas Gribben, between 1913 and 1914. They show some very large gatherings of armed Irish Volunteers in the Loughinisland and Castlewellan areas.

Images A and B show a large demonstration of Irish Volunteers at Loughinisland in 1914.

Image C shows a smaller group of armed men marching.

What does the size of the demonstration tell you about the state of the countryside at this time ?

What sort of people are watching the demonstration ?

What sort of atmosphere is there do you think ?
 
Image D shows the  aftermath of a large military style demonstration. Some members of the Police (the Royal Irish Constabulary) are present.

How do you think they feel about the demonstrations ?

The previous section showed the growth of the UVF in the locality and an image of men marching in Ballynahinch. Ballynahinch and Loughinisland are only a few miles apart.

What does this suggest about neighbour relations at this time ?

How would the police have dealt with that ?

What might the long term consequences of this tension be ?
 
Image E shows a badge of the National Volunteers.
In 1914 following the outbreak of World War I the Irish Volunteers split. The majority, agreed with John Redmond that Irishmen should fight for Britain in the war to show their support for the Empire, to guarantee Home Rule for Ireland and to support the freedom of other small nations, like Belgium. A minority of Volunteers believed that Irishmen should not join in the war effort. The larger group of Volunteers became known as National Volunteers.
  • Image A
  • Image B
  • Image C
  • Image D
  • Image E