Some Key Background Events - 1858 to 1918

Note:  This page is designed to give only the briefest of background to the 1919 to 1923 period with a little more detail for the 1917 and 1918



Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) Founded

Curran J M (1980), pg3





Fenian (IRB) Insurrection

Curran J M (1980), pg4





IRB Re-organised and revitalised – they decide on ‘centrist’ policy into Irish/Ireland Movement.

Curran J M (1980), pg5





Dissident Liberals join with Tories to defeat Gladstone/Parnell Home Rule Bill

Curran J M (1980), pg1





Fall of Parnell

Curran J M (1980), pg1





Gaelic League founded

Curran J M (1980), pg2





Sinn Féin founded by Arthur Griffith

Curran J M (1980), pg2





ITGWU founded by Jim Larkin

Curran J M (1980), pg2





Pop of Ireland is 4,390,319 (In 6 counties of what was to be NI 820,370 Protestants and 430,161 Catholics - Catholic majority in Fermanagh and Tyrone)

Curran J M (1980), pg296


Opposition to Home Rule Bill by Carson and Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).  The Ulster Covenant, which pledges resistance to the setting up of a Home Rule Parliament by “all means which may be found necessary”, is signed by nearly half a million people. They are supported by Bonar Law

Curran J M (1980), pg6; Townshend (2014), pg xviii





Asquith (Lib) gets Home Rule Bill passed in Westminster – It would become law in 2 years

Curran J M (1980), pg4





Lock-out - Unions defeated – Irish Citizens Army founded to protect strikers.

Curran J M (1980), pg6


Irish Volunteers founded by Eoin O'Neill (+IRB) - eventually supported by Irish Party

Curran J M (1980), pg6





200,000 in Irish Volunteers and 100,000 in Ulster Volunteer Force.  In April, the UVF run 20,000 rifles into Larne. In July, Erskine Childers runs 1,000 rifles into Howth for the Irish Volunteers.

Curran J M (1980), pg7;

Townshend (2014), pgs xviii & 95


Curragh Mutiny – British army officers declare that they would resign their commissions rather than confront the UVF.

Townshend (2014), pg xviii


Split in Irish Volunteers after war starts with National Volunteers going with Redmond and in support of British war effort.  About 13,000 left in Irish Volunteers

Curran J M (1980), pg8


Home Rule enacted but suspended for the duration of World War I.  100,000 or more Irishmen were to serve in the British Army during WWI

Curran J M (1980), pg8; Townshend (2014), pg 4


IRB and Connolly decide for rebellion

Curran J M (1980), pg9





IRB Military Council founded and headed by Pearse

Curran J M (1980), pg9





Easter Rising in Dublin (Monday 24th to Saturday 29th April) - 800 turn out with about another 800 joining during the week - 60 rebels killed, 132 British (including 16 police) and more than 300 civilians killed.

Curran J M (1980), pg11


15 rebel leaders shot and Casement hung - 97 death sentences commuted

Curran J M (1980), pg12


Afterwards 3500 rebel suspects arrested, 1500 let go almost immediately, 1800 interned in England (most ~1300 let go quickly)

Curran J M (1980), pg11


Lloyd George made Prime Minister

Curran J M (1980), pg13


All remaining internees released - 150 prisoners still held

Curran J M (1980), pg14








Count Plunkett wins seat for Sinn Féin in Roscommon

O'Farrell P (1997) P (1997), pg xiv


John Redmond dies and succeeded as leader of Irish Party by John Dillon

Curran J M (1980), pg15


Irish Volunteer meeting in Dublin leads to formation of National Executive



Joseph McGuiness wins seat for Sinn Féin  in South Longford while in prison

O'Farrell P (1997) P (1997), pg xiv


Convention called – Sinn Féin & Labour Party boycott - attended by Irish Party, Unionists and Bishops - Kept going until April 1918

Curran J M (1980), pg15


Remaining prisoners released including De Valera 

Curran J M (1980), pg14


De Valera wins seat for Sinn Féin in East Clare.  An Irish Volunteer (Daniel Scanlon) is shot dead during victory celebrations.  An RIC man (Constable Lyons) is found guilty but no action is taken against him. 

O'Farrell P (1997), pg xiv and pg 93


WT Cosgrave wins seat in Kilkenny for Sinn Féin

Curran J M (1980), pg17


Thomas Ashe, leader of the successful Ashbourne ambush during 1916 Rising and President of IRB, dies due to force-feeding in Mountjoy Prison during a hunger strike.  Massive funeral procession organised for him.  After a volley of shots was fired over his grave, Michael Collins steeped forward to give the oration.  It was short.  Nothing additional remains to be said. That volley which we have just heard is the only speech which it is proper to make above the grave of a dead Fenian"

O'Farrell P (1997), pg 4; Townshend (2014), pg 5


Sinn Féin Ard Fheis - 1,700 delegates – De Valera elected President; Griffith and Michael O’Flanagan as Vice-Presidents. Darrell Figgis and Austen Stack as joint Secretaries.  Cathal Brugha, Eoin MacNeill and Michael Collins on Standing Committee.

Curran J M (1980), pg18; Deasy (1973), pg 16; Townshend (2014), pg 24


Irish Volunteer Convention - De Valera elected President and Cathal Brugha chief-of-staff. Michael Collins made Director of Organisation and Richard Mulcahy made Director of Training.

Curran J M (1980), pg18  O'Donnoghue F (1986), pg 15; Townshend (2014), pg 6





GHQ staff for Irish Volunteers set up with Richard Mulcahy (formerly O/C Dublin Brigade) as Chief-of-Staff and Michael Collins as Director of Organisation.  Dick McKee takes over as O/C Dublin Brigade.

Hopkinson (2002), pg 16


British cabinet decides to impose conscription on Ireland. When the Chief Secretary for Ireland says that implementing conscription would “consolidate into one mass of antagonism all the Nationalist elements in Ireland”, Walter Long says “the Irish will talk, shout, perhaps get up a fight or two” but they “will know when they are beaten”.

Townshend (2014), pgs 7 & 10


At a British cabinet meeting, Walter Long tells his cabinet colleagues that the Irish “race has one marked characteristic”, they were “particularly liable to be influenced by their immediate environment”.  He continued that in suitable surroundings it was possible to rouse them to imperial enthusiasm but they were just as easily “filled with hatred and anger by a few crafty sedition mongers and young priestly fanatics”.

Townshend (2014), pg 18


Conscription Bill passed by British House of Commons - heightening the conscription crisis.  Duke resigns.

O'Donnoghue (1986), pg21; Townshend (2014), pg 10


Field Marshall French appointed Lord Lieutenant (Viceroy) and Edward Shortt as Chief Secretary.  In his own head, French thought of himself as a military governor. He planned to establish air strips in each of the four provinces.  With the range of military aircraft available, this would allow one hour “to play about with either bombs or machine guns” which “ought to put the fear of God into these playful young Sinn Feinners”.

O'Donnoghue (1986), pg 22; Townshend (2014), pg 11


British cabinet decide to withdraw threat of conscription in Ireland in the face of a united nationalist opposition.

Townshend (2014), pg 15

May-17 & 18

Sinn Féin leaders jailed (including De Valera, Plunkett, Griffith and MacNeil) - "German Plot".  No evidence produced that Sinn Féin leaders were in communication with the Germans.

Curran J M (1980), pg19; Townshend (2014), pg 16


Pat O’Sullivan and Dan Harrington from Kilnamatyra, Co. Cork disarm two RIC men at Béal na nGleanna.

O’Farrell (1997), pg 85


First edition of An tOglaċ, journal of the Irish Volunteers appears.  It is edited by Piaras Béaslaí.  It states that the Volunteers are “the Army of the Irish Republic … an instrument framed by Irishmen to further Ireland’s determination to be free”.

Townshend (2014), pg 75


1st World War ends

Curran J M (1980), pg19


Election in Britain and Ireland.  Lloyd George elected to head coalition of Tories & some Liberals.

Curran J M (1980), pg20


Polling day of General Election in Great Britain and Ireland (except for University constituencies).  Sinn Féin wins 73 out of 105 seats - the remaining seats are 23 Northern Unionists; 6 Irish Party and 3 Southern Unionists.  Sinn Féin received 48% of votes cast - however there were 26 unopposed constituencies.  (Also, it received 68% of vote outside the six counties of north-east Ulster which were to become Northern Ireland.) 

(Electorate had gone from 700,000 in 1910 to over 1.9m in 1919 with the granting of the vote to nearly all men over 21 and the granting the vote, with qualifications, to women over 30.)

Sinn Féin’s manifesto committed it to making use “any and every means available to render impotent the power of England to hold Ireland in subjection by military force or otherwise”.  This phrase got through the censors. The manifests also stated that Sinn Féin stands by the 1916 proclamation in asserting the inalienable right of the Irish nation to sovereign independence. 

Curran J M (1980), pg21; Figgis 1927, pg 225; Walker (1992), pgs 4-9; Ozseker (2019), pgs 91-92; Townshend (2014), pg 61