There was an important omission in Chris Fuller’s fascinating piece on resistance to conscription during the First World War (“Forced to fight their war”, March SR). Chris concludes by stating that the government backed off from introducing conscription in Ireland “still stunned by the Easter Rising”. In fact it was mass resistance, crucially the general strike called by the Irish TUC, that forced Lloyd George to retreat.
The extension of conscription to Ireland was not just being considered as Chris states; it had already been agreed by parliament as part of the Military Service Act in April 1918. A general strike was called on 23 April which was completely solid everywhere except Belfast. It was followed by mass rallies across the country addressed by Nationalist and Republican leaders. By the end of June the government was forced to abandon its plans but the incident boosted support for full independence for Ireland and paved the way for the Sinn Fein landslide in the general election later in the year. It can be said to be the opening shot in the Irish revolution of 1918-22.
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