A quarter of a million Irishmen fought in the British Army with half of them volunteering during the war years. Many joined for economic reasons while others believed if they fought in defence of other small nations of Europe it would help the cause of Irish independence and accelerate the implementation of the Home Rule Act. In all nearly forty thousand Irishmen died in the battles of Europe and more died when the returned to Ireland murdered for supporting the perceived British oppressors. The Volunteers in Ireland deemed themselves to be an all-Ireland organisation and their associated organisations such as the IRB and Clan Na Gael in America saw only a united thirty two county independent Ireland governed from Dublin as the only conclusion.
Dublin at the turn of the century was the capital of a country still getting over the trauma of a devastating famine and mired in the failures of many rebellions. Architecturally a jewel in the crown of the British Empire, the city was divided into those with and those without who lived in slums and ghettos and what work was available was ruthlessly exploited by a handful of powerful employers. The organisation known as the National Volunteers led by Redmond split over the Home Rule issue and the support of the crown forces in the World War, and of the nearly two hundred thousand members, the Irish Volunteers under McNeill and Bulmer Hobson were left with twenty thousand members seeking a more radical solution to Britain’s presence in Ireland.
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