Na Fianna Eireann were instrumental in the formation and development of the Irish Volunteers in 1913.
In February, 1914 Patrick Pearse said that ‘we believe that Na Fianna Eireann have kept the military spirit alive in Ireland during the past four years, and if the Fianna had not been founded in 1909, the Volunteers of 1913 would never have arisen‘
In 1913 the I.R.B. hierarchy decided to begin the process of military training. This decision was taken with the objective of training the members of the I.R.B. ‘to ensure that they would have the skills necessary to take a leading role in the new (Irish Volunteers) movement’.
Four young Na Fianna Eireann officers, who were also I.R.B. men, Eamon Martin, Cornelius Colbert, Michael Lonergan and Padraig O’Riain, were chosen to conduct the training. These four young men were already highly competent in military procedures and drilling, and had been training for the previous four years in the Fianna.
Na Fianna Eireann was a nationalist scouting body that had been formed four years earlier, by Hobson and Countess Markievicz, with the objective of the ‘re-establishment of the Independence of Ireland’. This was to be realised by the ‘training of the boys of Ireland, mentally and physically, to achieve this object by teaching scouting and military exercises, Irish history and Irish language’.
Eamon Martin, one of those I.R.B. instructors, recalled that Con Colbert was the first Fianna instructor back in 1909:
‘He was our first instructor in the elementary drill formations [in 1909], and I am afraid he was no great expert at this time. By intense swotting [of British Army manuals], however, he improved as the weeks went on, and, consequently, so did the Sluagh [Fianna branch]’.
It was now down to these four young men to prepare the I.R.B. members in drilling and other military training ‘in order to be ready to take over the military control of the new body’. Drilling took place in the Irish National Foresters Hall at 41 Parnell Square.
Image credit: Department of Ephemera at the NLI