The Irish Citizen Army was founded in at the height of the Dublin Lockout of 1913 to protect strikers from the police. Three years later it took part, alongside the Irish Volunteers, in the insurrection of Easter 1916. Its leader James Connolly along with his second, Michael Mallin, were executed for their part in the rising.
The ICA has therefore long had a special place in left-republican history in Ireland. Connolly’s writings gave voice to a socialist-republican tradition that still has adherents today while the Citizen Army’s participation in the insurrection apparently confirmed that, as Connolly put it, ‘the cause of Labour is the Cause of Ireland’. The ICA were an armed workers’ force, who believed in social as well as nation liberation and they also admitted women on equal terms to men. Such, at any rate is the memory of them today.
Photo: The Starry Plough (An Camchéachta) was first exhibited publicly on 5 April 1914 at an Irish Citizen Army meeting. The flag depicts part of the constellation of Ursa Major, known as ‘The Plough’ in Ireland, one of the most prominent features of the night sky over the Northern Hemisphere throughout the year. The 1916 flag is on display at the National Museum, Collins Barracks, Dublin.