New article: “The impact of political unrest in Ireland on Irish soldiers in the British army, 1914–18: a re-evaluation”

“The impact of political unrest in Ireland on Irish soldiers in the British army, 1914–18: a re-evaluation”
by Emmanuel Destenay

Irish Historical Studies
Volume 42, Issue 161
May 2018 , pp. 50-63

In order better to understand the impact of political unrest in Ireland on Irish troops fighting in the First World War, it is necessary to acknowledge that the role of the 1916 Rising has been significantly overestimated, while the influence of the 1914 home rule crisis and the repercussions of the anti-conscription movement have been underestimated. The 1914 home rule crisis significantly impacted on the Germans’ view of the Irish and conditioned the treatment of Irish P.O.W.s from December 1914 onwards. In addition, the post-1916 Rising executions and the conscription crisis had a severe impact on Irish front-line units, while also sapping the morale of other British combatants. The 1916 Rising might have been dismissed as a military operation conceived by a handful of republicans, with little support from the wider population, but the conscription crisis brought about widespread defiance towards British rule throughout the whole of nationalist Ireland. In line with British public opinion, British front-line officers and men strongly resented Ireland’s refusal to support the war effort at such a crucial moment. The consequence was the widespread targeting and stigmatisation of their Irish comrades-in-arms. Some British officers and men resorted to a form of psychological pressure, aimed at the public shaming of Irish troops. This article draws on new primary sources available at The National Archives in London, Dublin City Archives and University of Leeds Library to argue that the 1916 Rising was not the only political event in Ireland to have repercussions for Irish battalions fighting in the First World War.