History Politics

The 100th Anniversary Of The Redmondite Putsch

In June 1914 the autocratic leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party or IPP, John Redmond MP, staged something of a putsch within the ranks of the Irish Volunteers (IV), the nationalist paramilitary movement set up in response to the establishment of the separatist Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) in the north of Ireland which the British government and armed forces refused to ban or suppress. Largely the creation of revolutionary republicans who formed the heart of the country’s politically active intelligentsia the IV was viewed as a serious challenge to the accepted hegemony of the IPP, a party which actively co-operated with Britain in its supposed “constitutional” rule over the island. The self-proclaimed leader of “nationalist Ireland” determined that there could be no political rival to his own organisation and its off-shoots, and so set about seizing control of the Volunteers in the first half of 1914 through a campaign of blackmail, intimidation and force. With the reluctant “acceptance” of its existing membership some twenty-five “nominees” from the IPP were co-opted onto the Provisional Committee of the Irish Volunteers, its ruling body.

Within months John Redmond used his influence in the leadership of the Volunteers to split the movement, seizing control of the greater part of its membership and resources to form the Irish National Volunteers (INV), a new organisation wholly under the control of the Irish Paramilitary Party. This now functioned as the IPP’s military wing and under Redmond’s direction thousands joined the British Armed Forces in the fight to protect Britain’s imperial interests during World War I. Hundreds more acted as spies on the activities of the remaining Irish Volunteers, an organisation that was to join with others in becoming the “Army of the Irish Republic” or more colloquially the Irish Republican Army (IRA) during the Easter Rising of 1916. Indeed some INV men offered their services to the British in suppressing the insurrection, while during the War of Independence weapons possessed by the INV were used against IRA units by supporters of the rump IPP in Belfast and elsewhere. The corrupt seeds of the Irish counter-revolution of 1922-23 were planted by the Redmondites and with it the so-called Free State.

You can read much more about this over at the History of Na Fianna Éireann.

Note: In an interview with the “New York World” newspaper in October 1915 Redmond vigorously defended British rule in Ireland with an ominous foreshadowing of what would follow several months later: “Three or four men have been imprisoned for short terms for open pro-German declarations, for which in similar cases they would have been shot in Germany.”

John Redmond MP features in a British Army recruitment poster calling upon Irishmen to fight and die for the British Empire, Ireland, 1914
John Redmond MP features in a British Army recruitment poster calling upon Irishmen to fight and die for the British Empire, Ireland, 1914
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