On Monday evening in the Antient Concert Rooms a mass meeting was held under the auspices of the Irish Neutrality League. The demonstration was principally intended to act as a set off to Mr John Redmond's recent recruiting meeting in the Mansion House, and to define the position of Ireland in relation to the present European War. When the proceedings opened the building was filled to overflowing by an enthusiastic gathering. Mr James Connolly took the chair amidst applause, and was accompanied on the platform by Mr Arthur Griffith (Editor Sinn Féin), Mr William O'Brien (President Dublin Trades Council), Mr John T. Kelly, TC; Mr J.J. Scollan (AOH, IAA), Major John MacBride, Mr Seán Milroy, ex-Alderman Macken, and the Countess Markievicz.
Mr Connolly, in his opening address, explained that they were met together to launch a campaign which he thought would prove historic in the annals of this country. He had with him on the platform men drawn from all classes. There were labour men there, and men who by no stretch of the imagination could be called labour men. They had Home Rulers and Republicans, Socialists and Sinn Féiners (applause). They had members of the sane section of the Volunteers, members of the Citizen Army (applause), and representatives of Cumann na mBan, Inghinidhe na hÉireann, and the various Franchise Leagues in Ireland. All of these represented ideals that were strangely different and ideas of the future that were strangely hostile. They represented many diverse ideas that for the time being were relinquished, so that they could come together on a common platform. But having mentioned the things they disagreed on, he would now turn to the one thing upon which they all agreed, namely, that the interests of Ireland were more dear to them than the interests of the British Empire (loud applause). They wanted to emphasise the fact that the enemies of England were not necessarily the enemies of Ireland. It was their duty to gather together the forces in Ireland so that they might place their country in the position it ought to occupy - a position of neutrality (applause). Having acquired the force, it was their duty to arrive at a conception of this question, and that conception was not likely to be of concern for the British Empire. They were now gathered together to emphasise the fact that their duty was to Ireland and to Ireland only (cheers). In doing so they would, of course, be accused of all sorts of motives. Mr Redmond (groans) told them that it was their duty as Irishmen to support England in the present crisis, because she had closed for ever the record of her past in this country, but he (Mr Connolly) held that they could never map out their plans for the future unless they were able to understand the past (applause). When he (the speaker) was told of the promises made by England he remembered the promises made by England in the past and the result of those promises - which were never kept - he would tell them they ought not to heed her promises now unless they had the power in their hands to see that they were kept (applause). If Mr Redmond, instead of pledging the support of the Irish people in the British House of Commons had told Mr Asquith that he proposed going home to Ireland to consult the voice of Ireland, then, had he made such a statement, the Irish nation would be born again (cheers). But that opportunity had been lost. The English people were now crying out about the woes of Belgium, but when Belgium was devastated with fire and sword there were no British there to help her. Even when Belgium was in the throes of agony England sent her expeditionary force to France. This, of course, was done for "strategic reasons", but she knew that her army was safer beside the big French force than with the smaller army of Belgium. Germany was fighting for the commerce of the seas and for the means of building up a sane civilisation in Europe (cheers). This was no rigged meeting - they had no RIC force to protect it. Irishmen wanted to see their country emerge from the present crisis with her dignity preserved (loud applause). [...]
Republished in James Connolly: Lost Writings, (ed. Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh), Pluto Press 1997.