4th August 1914

Britain declares War on Germany

Germany's invasion of Belgium, a neutral country, prompted Britain to declare war. The alliances between countries brought the Allied Forces: France, Britain, and Russia together against the Central Powers of Germany and Austria-Hungary.

John Redmond, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, pledged Irish Volunteer support for the defence of the nation. “I say that the coast of Ireland will be defended from foreign invasion by her armed sons, and for this purpose armed nationalist Catholics in the south will be only to glad to join arms with the armed Protestant Ulsterman in the North.”

John Redmond urged Irish Volunteers to enlist in the war. Joseph Devlin led the nationalist recruitment drive in the North. Redmond believed that by supporting the British army, he was ensuring the survival of Home Rule. However some sections of the nationalist community saw Redmond's speeches as a betrayal. This division caused a split in the Irish Volunteers. Around 11,000 volunteers broke away from Redmond, to be led by Eoin MacNeill. However the majority, around 170,000 men supported Redmond and were renamed the National Volunteers.

First World War, Military & Policing, Nationalism, Home Rule
A recruitment poster for WW1: John Redmond MP urging Irish men to join the war effort.
Library of Congress