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One of the German Mauser rifles landed at Howth from the Asgard on Sunday 26 July. (NMI)

One of the German Mauser rifles landed at Howth from the Asgard on Sunday 26 July. (NMI)

The weapons were imported after the arming of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), which, with the open support of the opposition Conservative Party, was established to prepare for civil war rather than accept all-Ireland Home Rule as set out in the bill of 1912. Home Rule had been introduced to allow the Liberal Party to form a government with the support of John Redmond’s Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) towards the end of 1910. The power of veto on legislation enjoyed by the Conservative-dominated House of Lords had been removed in 1911 for reasons unrelated to Home Rule.

The Irish Volunteers were formed towards the end of 1913, both as a counter-measure to the UVF and to safeguard the implementation of Home Rule. Notwithstanding that the importation of arms had been outlawed in Ireland in December 1913, the UVF had successfully imported large quantities of guns in April 1914 and were drilling in public with minimal official interference. Shortly thereafter a group of friends in London, including Childers (an experienced sailor), decided that the Irish Volunteers should themselves arm. The government initially stood tall against the UVF but a temporary exclusion (with the agreement of Redmond) of a then-undecided portion of the North was agreed in mid-March 1914. Temporary exclusion didn’t prove appealing to unionists; when the government sought to reinforce a number of barracks for fear of potential UVF raids, sections of the British army in Ireland refused to move north in what has become known as the ‘Curragh mutiny’. From the end of March 1914 the British government was faced with the most serious constitutional crisis since the seventeenth century.


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