#OTD in 1918 – Sinn Féin leaders arrested over alleged ‘German plot’.

In a dramatic midnight swoop, police and military authorities arrested leading members of the Sinn Féin movement. Among them were a number of MPs and the party’s president, Éamon de Valera, who was seized at his home in Greystones, Co Wicklow and taken to Kingstown Police Station.

Constance Markievicz was apprehended in Rathmines. Party Secretary, Darrell Figgis, who was seized at his home a couple of hours earlier by several soldiers and half a dozen detectives was taken away in a lorry to Dublin Castle.

In Belfast, Denis McCullough and Seán McEntee were also arrested. Others detained included Arthur Griffith, the founder of Sinn Féin and editor of Nationality; William Cosgrave MP; Joseph McGuinness MP; Dr Richard Hayes and Seán Milroy. The reasons for these arrests were given by a proclamation issued by the Lord Lieutenant, Viscount French, and signed by the Chief Secretary, Edward Shortt, both of whom were recently appointed.


The proclamation, published that morning, alleged that the government in Ireland had discovered that a seditious element had been engaging in ‘treasonable communication with Germany’. The arrests were intended to crush what it termed as this ‘German Plot’. The proclamation further urged ‘all loyal subjects’ to assist the government in suppressing this treachery.

Also, in a move, seen by many as a softening in the official attitude towards recruitment in Ireland, the proclamation states that authorities will take steps to ‘facilitate and encourage voluntary enlistment in Ireland… in the hope that without resort to compulsion the contribution of Ireland’ to Britain’s forces ‘may be brought up to its proper strength’.

The uproar caused by the passing of the Military Service (Ireland) Act month, led to massive anti-conscription rallies all over the country and a general strike.

The Belfast Newsletter, believed the government had been unduly influenced by this unrest and accused this, and the previous, administration of pursuing ‘the path of political expediency in its dealing with Irish nationalism and Irish treason too long’. On the other hand, the Irish Independent argued that the juxtaposition of details of the plot with the question of military service exposed the proclamation as an exercise in cheap propaganda.

Image | Some of the arrested Sinn Féin leaders | Illustrated London News | London, England | 25 May 1918 | Source | Century Ireland

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