John Redmond’s nominees to the Provisional Committee of the Irish Volunteers

John Redmond's nominees to the Provisional Committee of the Irish Volunteers

On June 17th, 1914 a statement was issued to the national press by eight members of the provisional committee of the Irish Volunteers (including two Fianna officers) who opposed the acceptance of John Redmond’s twenty five nominees on the governing committee.

They were Eamon Ceannt, Michael J Judge, *Con Colbert (Fianna), John Fitzgibbon, *Eamon Martin (Fianna), Patrick Pearse, Sean MacDermott and Piaras Beaslai (They were all I.R.B. members except Judge and Fitzgibbon).

There were actually nine who voted against the proposal but the ninth, *Liam Mellows (also still connected to Fianna Eireann) in his capacity as general secretary of the Irish Volunteers, felt he should keep his name out of the public statement to avoid further destabilisation. He had the full backing of the other eight committee members.

Interestingly Plunkett, The O’Rahilly, MacNeill, *Hobson (Fianna) and *Padraig O’Riain (Fianna) were among those who voted in favour of Redmond’s nominees. They later stated that they believed they had no other choice, as to vote against the motion would split the movement. It was this incident that caused the falling out between Tom Clarke and Bulmer Hobson.

Sean Fitzgibbon recalled the meeting in his witness statement:

“The Provisional Committee met in a strained atmosphere. There was a full attendance with the exception only of one absentee, Thomas McDonagh, who was down presiding over a centre for the Intermediate Examinations which were at the time taking place, but who wrote a letter to the meeting expressing his views which were not favourable to Mr. Redmond’s proposals. MacNeill presided at the meeting in the Volunteer Office, Pearse Street, and the Committee were arranged around the table, Colonel Moore, Roger Casement, being on MacNeill’s left, followed by myself, Eamon Martin and Liam Mellows, who was Secretary of the organisation. The position on MacNeill’s right was occupied by Bulmer Hobson. He told me that he deliberately took up that position so that he would be able to wind up the debate, as MacNeill asked each member of the Committee in rotation starting on his left, for his views.

MacNeill read a statement in which he proposed the admission of Mr. Redmond’s nominees, but it was clear that it was with his reluctance and with the intention of avoiding a split at a very critical stage in the national movement. Colonel Moore and Roger Casement followed with reluctant support. Then I spoke in opposition, followed by Eamon Martin and so on round the table – Pearse, Ceannt, M.J. Judge (to our surprise he was a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians), Piaras Beaslai, Con Colbert, Liam Mellows and Sean McDermott (we were scattered round the room). All these were members of the I.R.B. with the exception of M.J. Judge and myself.

These men opposed it. The vote was taken and the proposal passed by a large majority, Hobson, winding up the debate in a speech in which he made it clear their decision was being taken not merely for the purpose of avoiding a national split at this time, but leaving nobody under any illusion as views on Mr. Redmond’s dictatorial attitude.”

Redmond’s proposal of his own nominees, was an attempt to take control of the organisation and while it was grudgingly accepted and passed by the rest of the committee, the strains and tension had been put in motion and it was not long until the split occurred on Thursday, September 24th following Redmond’s fateful speech at Woodenbridge in Wicklow a few days previously (20th September), where he called upon all available Irishmen (including all Volunteers) to enlist in the British army and participate in the war which had just begun.

This was a step too far for the original Irish Volunteers and they issued another statement asserting that Redmond and his nominees were no longer entitled to any place in the Irish Volunteers. Those twenty five nominees and any other supporters of Redmond would now cease to belong to the Irish Volunteers. The committee would now consist of those who were members prior to the addition of his candidates.

A new statement was signed on September 24th after a meeting at 41 Kildare Street and the signatories were:

Eoin MacNeill, The O’Rahilly, Thomas MacDonagh, Joseph Plunkett, *Eamon Martin (Fianna Eireann), Piaras Beaslai, Michael Judge, Peter Macken, John Fitzgibbon, Patrick Pearse, *Padraig O’Riain (Fianna Eireann), *Liam Mellows (Fianna Eireann), *Bulmer Hobson (Fianna Eireann), Con Colbert (Fianna Eireann), Eamonn Ceannt, Sean MacDermott, Seamus O’Conchubhair, Colm O’Loughlin, Liam Gogan and Peter White.

This group of twenty men were part of the original twenty seven member provisional committee in 1913.

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