Irish Citizen Army

Originally a workers' protection corps, it graduated under Connolly's control to an armed revolutionary militia.

During the Lock-out, the marching band of Larkin's union made a habit of taunting the Dublin police by playing "The Peeler and the Goat" (a noted satirical anti-police ditty). On one occassion, the police threatened to smash the band's instruments. Union members promptly lined up to protect the band. Thus was born the Irish Citizen Army.

The Lock-out was marked by vicious fighting. A police baton-charge in O'Connell Street resulted in two men beaten to death and about 500 more injured. Larkin promised:

"if one of our class fall, then two of the other should fall for that one."

Armed with hurley sticks and more effectively with wooden clubs "shoed" in iron, the ICA formed a guard at union demonstrations and at the huge rallies held nightly outside Liberty Hall. Its first leader was Captain Jack White, one of those wonderful anomolies that crop up in Irish history: a Northern Protestant landlord, decorated Boer-War veteran, and now drill-instructor to the Dublin working-class.

The Irish Citizen Army was founded during the great Dublin Lock-Out of 1913-14, for the purpose of protecting the working class, and of preserving its right of public meeting and free association. The streets of Dublin had been covered by the bodies of helpless men, women, boys and girls brutally batoned by the uniformed bullies of the British Government. Three men had been killed, and one young Irish girl murdered by a scab, and nothing was done to bring the assassins to justice. So since justice did not exist for us, since the law instead of protecting the rights of the workers was an open enemy, and since the armed forces of the Crown were unreservedly at the disposal of the enemies of labour, it was resolved to create our own army to secure our rights, to protect our members, and to be a guarantee of our own free progress.

The 1913 Lock-Out was marked by vicious rioting between the striking workers and the Dublin Metropolitan Police. A police baton-charge in O'Connell Street on August 31 resulted in two men beaten to death and about 500 more injured. Jim Larkin, the workers' leader, promised:

"if one of our class fall, then two of the other should fall for that one."

So was born the Irish Citizen Army. Its immediate purpose was to protect the striking workers from attacks by the police and the hired bullies of the employers. Armed with hurley sticks and more effectively by wooden clubs "shoed" in iron, the Army formed a guard at union demonstrations and at the huge rallies held nightly outside Liberty Hall. Its very appearance, as was later remarked, "put manners on the police".

Sean O'Casey (afterwards the acclaimed playwright) was its first general secretary. He drew up the constitution which stated that "the ownership of Ireland, moral and material, is vested of right in the people of Ireland" and that the Army's aim was to "sink all difference of birth property and creed under the common name of Irish people".

On Larkin's departure in 1914, Connolly took over leadership of the ICA. He reorganized on strongly militant lines.

Core membership now was 200 or so. Men and women had equal membership (a first in Ireland): both were trained in the use of weapons. These weapons were a mishmash of pistols, shotguns, modern Lee-Enfields stolen from the British Army (or sometimes "donated" by sympathetic soldiers), and "Howth" Mausers pilfered from the Irish Volunteers.

In contrast to the conspiratorial methods of the IRB (which by now had wrested control of the Irish Volunteers), the Citizen Army was quite public in its intentions. Its newspaper, Workers' Republic, bragged its defiance:

"We shall continue, in season and out of season, to teach that the 'far-flung battle line' of England is weakest at the point nearest its heart, that Ireland is in that position of tactical advantage ... that the time for Ireland's battle is NOW, the place for Ireland's battle is HERE. That a strong man may deal lusty blows with his fists against a host of surrounding foes, and conquer, but will succumb if a child sticks a pin in his heart. (Connolly, Workers' Republic 22 January 1916)

On a foggy night in October 1915, Connolly led a feint attack on Dublin Castle itself, remarking to the startled policeman on point, "We'll be back." That the British authorities should tolerate all this seems extraordinary now, but the fear of Dublin Castle was that any clamp-down on the Citizen Army (as on the far larger Irish Volunteers) would provoke only further unrest, which in turn would disrupt recruitment.

Connolly had been using the pages of the ITGWU's 'Irish Worker' to argue against working class participation in the imperialist war. He urged people to join the Volunteers or the Citizen Army rather than the British Army. He was a great believer in the old maxim that England's difficulty was Ireland's opportunity and with England involved in a war, now was the time for Ireland to assert itself. With Connolly in charge at Liberty Hall nobody was left in any doubt as to where he stood. Soon after Larkin's departure Connolly draped the now famous, "We Serve Neither King Nor Kaiser But Ireland" banner from Liberty Hall. He choose as his second in command in the Citizen Army another ex British army man, Michael Mallin, who was head of the Inchicore branch of the I.T.G.W.U. CONNOLLY AND CITIZEN ARMY INCREASINGLY PROVOCATIVE With Connolly becoming more strident in his criticism of the War the authorities began to censor The Irish Worker. In December 1914 the authorities closed down The Irish Worker, along with Sinn Fein and Irish Freedom. Connolly tried to have The Irish Worker printed in Glasgow and smuggled into Ireland but the February issue was seized by the authorities as it came off ship. Connolly decided to set up his own printing press in Liberty Hall and so produce his own propaganda. It was the end of May 1915 before a new paper was produced, which he called Workers Republic. From the very beginning this newspaper preached insurrection. A page under the title "ICA notes" was given over in each issue to the subject of military tactics and examples were given from other countries around the world where uprisings had occurred. In these articles Connolly concentrated on issues such as street fighting, building barricades etc. In complete contrast to the conspiratorial methods and elitist tactics of the I.R.B. Connolly and the Citizen Army were very public in their intentions. Openly carrying arms and printing seditious material in Workers Republic they were pushing the authorities as far as they could. Without a doubt the authorities would have closed down Liberty Hall and the printing press had they not to worry about the resistance expected from the Citizen Army. In the inquiry into the Rising, evidence was given that while most government officials wanted to close Liberty Hall their military advisers estimated that up to a thousand soldiers would be needed, with the inevitable resulting bloodshed. With the armed protection of the Citizen Army, Connolly was able to make his campaign for an uprising more direct and longer sustained than in any other insurrectionist period in Irish history.