Monday, October 31, 2011

A meeting for the Irish Volunteers in Athenry 1914 by Ronan Killeen

Since 1913 the 'spirit of the Irish Volunteers' continued to grow in Ireland. On Sunday 8 February 1914 in Athenry's Town Hall a.k.a Murphy's Hall/ Athenry Community Hall a meeting was held in Athenry with over 200 men being enrolled. One speaker that day said it was like 'bring the water to Galway Bay to ask the men of Athenry to join the Irish Volunteers'.
   Three men George Nicholls, B.A., solicitor, B.Cusack and J. V. Fahy, solicitor, where given a warm welcome when the arrived at the meeting in Athenry by the assembled crowd. Rev. Cannon Canton and Rev. Father McGough gave apologised through letters that the could not appear. A short while later George Nicholls was was then formally introduced to the crowd.

George Nicholls gave his speech first in Irish then in English he said that he 'felt very proud at being very proud at being asked to propose the following resoultion:That a corps of the Irish Volunteer's be formed in Athenry, and the members be enrolled at the close of the meeting. Nicholls believed that the Irish Volunteers were the most important organisation in the county at the present time in his own opinion.
   'This reason for this was because the Volunteers were going through the most critical time in Irish history because a home rule bill would bring a certain amount of liberty to the Irish nation.' Nicholls continued 'If, however, for any unssen calamity the present bill could not be carried into law, or if anything should happen in a nature of deafet of the Government. The Home Rule Bill would then be in a very critical condition, unless there was a well-organised and displined body of men in the country, prepared not only to ask Unionist Governement to accede to their demands and but to compel them to give a better measure (loud applause).
Nicholls continued 'Ireland had too long been asking on its knees fair play from England; they (the Irish Volunteer's) were now in a position to band themselves together, to train and to arm and to go before England and demand a full measure of liberty. The Volunteer movement by men of every brand of nationalism, and it is the only one at present embracing within its ranks (the end of this sentence was followed by applause).
   'The two men who first concieved the idea of the Volunteers were Mr. John McNeill, the Vic e-President of the Gaelic League and the old land league movement, as represented by Mr. Kettle had come together into one great National, trained and displined army. The second place in Ireland he (Nicholls) was proud to say that took up the movement was Galway.
   '...And if there ever was a town in which there is a strong regiment fo the Volunteers, it was Athenry.' Nicholls stated that 'some people are under the impression that it was only Sinn Féin under another name, and was out against the Party.  To contest Nicholls above statement he read out two extracts:

'In the first of which Mr. John Redmond threatened Mr. Arthour Balfour if anything happened to the Home Rule Bill he will have four-fifths of the Irish people rise up in arms to secure the liberty of the country. Suppose the British Government decided to do nothing   To back up Nicholls statements he read out two extracts the first one being ‘Mr. John Redmond threatened Mr. Arthur Balfour if anything happened to the Home Rule Bill he will have four fiths of the Irish people up in arms, to secure the liberty of the country. Suppose the British Government were to do nothing, what will Mr. Balfour’s attitude be if four fifth’s of the Irish people declare their intention to take up arms in order to claim that settlement which the representive house has offered to them and has only withheld under threats of violence?

These are the realities of the situation, and I observe that they are not touched upon in Mr. Balfour’s interesting dialetic.
   Mr. J.P. Farrell, an active Member of the Irish Party stated he ‘would be proud to see the young men of Ireland drilled properly, not for any violent or disorderly intent, but for the purpose of being, as they would be under Home Rule –a safeguard to the country.  
   When the word to drill is given every young nationalist should drill.'  After this a third extract was read out who was not a member of the Irish Party but an Irish nationalist who contributed to Irish national music than any living man and that person was no other  Dr. H. W. Gratton Flood who sais in the letter; 'The Volunteer movement is the sign of the times, the sign of , a sign of an awakened nation. A virile organistion such as the Volunteers is bound to prove a most valuable asset to the building up of an Irish Ireland.
   It will make for displine, self-respect, physical culture, military training and a right feeling of self reliance. It muse lead in to far reaching Ireland a Nation. (Followed by applause).

At that same meeting a letter from Colonel Moore had said that 'a German army in the event of an invasion by the country could reach Athlone from Galway inside 48 hours. That was quite possible, but very improbable if facing that German armythere was a trained body of soldiers. If England was threatened with an invasion the first thing she would do would not protect Ireland, but her, own country and her own interests. Every soldier would be withdrawn from Ireland. England would first, justly so.That should teach the Irish people a lesson'
   Colonel Moore believed that 'If Ireland was invaded tomarrow, there would be no army tommarrow, they would have no army to defend them unless they have the men of Athenry would do somehing' (Laughter was heard in the Hall).

To read more read Connaught Tribune 14 February 1914  under the headline The Volunteers; ENTHUSIASTIC PROCEEDINGS IN ATHERNY TOWN HALL; 200 members enrolled; addresses by Messrs. Geo Nicholls, B.A.; Bryan Cusack, and J. V. Fahy, Soir.


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