“Speaking personally for myself, I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that on hundreds of platforms in this country during the last few years I have publicly promised, not only for myself, but in the name of my country, that when the rights of Ireland were admitted by the democracy of England, Ireland would become the strongest arm in the defence of the Empire. The test has come sooner than I, or anyone, expected. I tell the Prime Minister that this test will be honourably met. I say for myself that I would feel myself personally dishonoured if I did not say to my fellow-countrymen as I say to them here to-day, and as I will say from the public platform when I go back to Ireland, that it is their duty, and should be their honour, to take their place in the fighting-line in this contest.”
That was a clear pledge. The Home Rule Bill received the Royal Assent on September 18th. But before the seal was affixed Redmond’s manifesto to the Irish people was in all the newspapers. It was his call to arms.
[Footnote 3: This fact was verified for me oddly enough. When the 16th Division went to France, it was put through the usual period of apprenticeship with trained troops, and our brigade was attached for training to the Scottish Fifteenth Division. Two companies of our battalion of the 6th Connaught Rangers were attached to the 8th and 9th K.O.S.B. I met two officers who had been in Dublin on July 26th, and it was one of these who told me of the cheering. Perhaps I may add that the relations between our Connaught Rangers and the Scots were most friendly, and that we found probably a hundred Irish Catholics in that battalion—Irishmen living in the North of England who had at once rushed to enlist in the nearest corps available.]
[Footnote 4: Bought in Belgium by John O’Connor M.P., and T.M. Kettle, after the Germans had entered Brussels.]
THE RAISING OF THE IRISH BRIGADES
At the ending of the long session of Parliament in 1914 there was a curious scene in the House of Commons, where members were crowded to assist at the formal passing of the Irish and Welsh Bills. On the adjournment, Mr. Will Crooks, from his seat on the front bench below the gangway, called out, “Mr. Speaker, would it be in order to sing ’God save the King’?” and without more ado uplifted his voice and the House chimed in. There must have been strange thoughts in the minds of Redmond, of Mr. Dillon, and others of the Irish, standing in the places where they had fought so long and bitter a battle, where they had been so often the object of fierce reproaches, whence they had hurled back so many taunts, now to find themselves the centre of congratulation, and joined with English members in singing on the floor of the House that national anthem which in Ireland had been for decades a symbol of ascendancy, rigidly tabooed by every Nationalist.