Hidden History: The Long War for Irish Independence

The Dublin Lockout and World War I

The Irish Identity Episode 18 (Great Courses)

Presenter: Marc Conner

Film Review

This film is part of a free lecture series on the history and literature of Ireland. Being of Irish descent, I have a particular interest in the Irish independence movement, which is rarely taught in US schools.

The Rising of 1798 was the first recorded mass action for Irish independence. The movement, however, gained major momentum from the 1845-89 potato famine and the mass migration of Irish peasants to US cities. As Irish immigrants gradually established themselves in American police and fire departments and all levels of government and organized crime, the amassed wealth they sent back helped fund the movement for independence.

The failure of David O’Connell’s bill (in the British parliament) to repeal the Act of Union* would lead to the 1848 Rebellion. John O’Mahoney, one of the Rebellion leaders, fled to the US, where he founded the Fenian Brotherhood to build support among Irish-Americans for the independence movement.

This was followed by the 1861 Land War, aimed at crushing British feudal estates in Ireland.

In 1908, English labor organizers James Latham came to Ireland to organize dock workers. In 1913, his efforts resulted in a general strike and lockout by Irish employers. Barbaric treatment of striking workers by the Royal Irish Constabulary (police) would result in Ireland’s first Bloody Sunday (1914).

Despite the eventual workers’ defeat, a surge in anti-British sentiment would lead to the formation of the Citizens Army (later renamed the Irish Volunteers). The Volunteers would organize the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin.

Although the Home Rule Act** was finally approved in September 1914, owing to World War I, it would never be implemented (except in Northern Ireland).

The German military attempted to smuggle a shipment of 20,000 rifles and machines guns to the 11,000-strong Irish Volunteers for the 1916 rebellion. However when British intelligence learned of the shipment, the Germans sank their ship to prevent the arms from falling into British hands.

Although the leadership called off the Easter Rising for lack of weapons, a renegade group of 1500 went through with the uprising on Easter Monday – seizing the the flour mill, several factories, and the post office.

Declaring martial law, the British military arrested 3500 Irish rebels, who they tried in military tribunals. In the end 1800 were interned and 15 executed. As Irish public sympathy escalated for the martyrs, British Prime Minister H H Asquith hurried to Ireland to stop the executions.

In Conners’ view, the powerful anti-British sentiment that resulted would lay the ground work for Ireland’s 1919-1921 war of independence.


*The 1800 Acts of Union were parallel acts of the parliaments of Great Britain and Ireland to created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

**The 1914 Home Rule Act was intended to provide for limited self-government for Ireland within the United Kingdom.

Anyone with a public library card can view the film free at Kanopy. Type “Kanopy” and the name of your library into your search engine.

4 thoughts on “Hidden History: The Long War for Irish Independence

  1. Pingback: IRA Leader Michael Collins: Father of Modern Urban Warfare | The Most Revolutionary Act

  2. Pingback: IRA Leader Michael Collins: Father of Modern Urban Warfare | The Most Revolutionary Act

  3. Pingback: REBEL YELL: IRA Leader Michael Collins: Father of Modern Urban Warfare | RIELPOLITIK

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