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A Declaration of War: The Press and the Irish Conscription Crisis of 1918

Daniel McKenna Joesten

Abstract


During the first four years of World War I the British sustained heavy losses at the front.  The desperate need for more troops led them to conscript men not only from Britain, but from their dominions as well.  One exception was Ireland.  By 1918, Ireland had sent volunteers to fight in the trenches but conscription was not enacted.  In fact, previous attempts to extend conscription to Ireland were rejected in the House of Commons due to the delicate home rule situation in Ireland and the tenuous relationship between the two countries.  However in April of 1918, seeing no other alternative to the troop shortage, the House passed the Military Service Bill that extended conscription to Ireland.  The passage of the bill directly led to what was called the Irish Conscription Crisis.  The Crisis was marked by protests, strikes and political polarization that further alienated the Irish from the British.

My paper argues that that the choice by Britain to package conscription with home rule in Ireland effectively changed the dynamic of the Irish question by creating a stronger separationist movement in Ireland.  The Crisis had the effect of uniting many of the different political factions within Ireland, who, despite their differences, were able to come together in order to protest conscription.  In addition, my paper claims that the Military Service Bill had some unlikely consequences such as alienating British support in Northern Ireland. 


Keywords


World War I; Conscription; Irish History;

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