Part 4

On the 7th April, 1916, public meetings of the Irish Volunteers were held for the purposes of protesting against the deportation orders and to enlist recruits. The speeches were very violent, threats being used that persons attempting to disarm the volunteers would be "shot dead "

The Chief Commissioner made a report to the Under Secretary, and that document shows clearly the view that Colonel Edgeworth-Johnson took of the situation :-

"These recruiting meetings are a very undesirable development, and are I think causing both annoyance and uneasiness amongst loyal citizens................ The Sinn Fein party are gaining in numbers, in equipment, in discipline, and in confidence, and I think drastic action should be taken to limit their activities. The longer this is postponed the more difficult it will be to carry out"

This report reached the Under Secretary on the 10th April, who wrote on it - " Chief Secretary and the Lord Lieutenant to see the Chief Commissioner's minute". On the 12th the Chief Secretary wrote upon it - "Requires careful consideration. It is thought practicable to undertake a policy of disarmament, and, if so, within what limits, if any, can such a policy be circumscribed ?"
Upon the same day the Lord Lieutenant wrote upon it, "This is a difficult point; could the disarming be satisfactorily effected ?"

No answer to the minute was returned to the Royal Irish Constabulary, and the file did not find its way back to the Inspector General until the 24th May

Conclusions

It is outside the scope of your Majesty's instructions to us to inquire how far the policy of the Irish Executive was adopted by the Cabinet as a whole, or to attach responsibility to any but the Civil and Military Executive in Ireland; but the general conclusion that we draw from the evidence before us is that the main cause of the rebellion appears to be that lawlessness was allowed to grow up unchecked, and that Ireland for several years past has been administered on the principal that it was safer and more expedient to leave law in abeyance if collision with any faction of the Irish people could be avoided

Such a policy is the negation of that cardinal rule of Government which demands that the enforcement of law and the preservation of order should always be independent of political expediency

We consider that the importation of large quantities of arms into Ireland after the lapse of the Arms Act, and the toleration of drilling by large bodies of men first in Ulster, and then in other districts of Ireland created conditions which rendered possible the recent troubles in Dublin and elsewhere

It appears to us that reluctance was shown by the Irish Government to repress by prosecution written and spoken seditious utterances to suppress the drilling and manoeuvring  of armed forces known to be under control of men who were openly declaring their hostility to Your Majesty's Government and their readiness to welcome and assist Your Majesty's enemies

We are of the opinion that from the commencement of the present war all seditious utterances and publications should have been firmly suppressed at the outset, and if juries or magistrates were found unwilling to enforce this policy further powers should have been invoked under the existing Acts for the Defence of the Realm

We are also of the opinion that on the outbreak of war all drilling and manoeuvering by unrecognised bodies of men, whether armed or unarmed, should have been strictly prohibited, and that as soon as it became known to the Irish Government that the Irish Volunteers and the Citizen Army were under the control of men prepared to assist Your Majesty's enemies if the opportunity should be offered to them, all drilling and open carrying of arms by these bodies of men should have been forcibly suppressed

It does not appear to be disputed that the authorities in the spring of 1916, while believing that the seditious bodies would not venture unaided to break into insurrection, were convinced that they were prepared to assist a German landing

We are further of the opinion that at the risk of a collision early steps should have been taken to arrest and prosecute leaders and organisers of sedition

For the reasons before given, we do not think any responsibility rests upon the Lord Lieutenant. He was appointed in February, 1915, and was in no way answerable for the policy of the Government

We are, however, of the opinion that the Chief Secretary as the administrative head of Your Majesty's Government in Ireland is primarily responsible for the situation that was allowed to arise and the outbreak that occurred.............

We are satisfied that Sir Neville Chamberlain, the Inspector General of the Royal Irish Constabulary, and Colonel Edgeworth-Johnstone, the Chief Commissioner of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, required their subordinates to furnish, and did receive from their subordinates, full and exact reports as to the nature, progress and aims of the various armed associations in Ireland. From these sources the Government had abundant material on which they could have acted many months before the leaders themselves contemplated any actual rising 

For the conduct, zeal and loyalty of the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Metropolitan Police we have nothing but praise

TBC

CSM