As we announced in our Stop Press issue last week the British Government through its military commandant in Dublin has gone one step further in the direction of the suppression of the liberties of the Irish people. Captain Monteith, of the Irish Volunteers, was summarily ordered to leave the Dublin Metropolitan District within twenty-four hours, and also to report to the military authorities wherever he took up his future residence. Mr Walsh, of Cork, and Messrs Hegarty, of the same city, have also had the same sample of British zeal for civilised government meted out to them. Numbers of Civil Servants in the Post Office, as well as in the Custom House, have been interviewed by their superiors and told plainly to cease their activities in the Irish Volunteers or take the consequences in dismissal from their position, and all over the country this inquisition into the political opinions of every educated man is manifesting itself as a part of the settled policy of the Government. A cowardly Press is calling out for the suppression of all newspapers and journals refusing to take their orders from the Government, employers are commenting adversely upon the refusal of workers to wear loyalist badges, and gradually a White Terror is spreading itself over the lives of the people.
One of the victims, Jack Hegarty, of Cork, writes to us protesting that he does not complain of the action of the Government in striking him down, scorns to whine. We quite well believe you, Jack! But we complain when any man or woman who stands for Freedom is struck down, and our complaint is not based so much upon a sense of injury to the man, as upon the fact that through him Freedom is struck at. To remain dumb in front of the assassin's blow is to encourage the assassin. We will not be dumb, we will not be silent, "we will speak though all earth's systems crack." And we do not hesitate to offer our lives or our personal liberties as the earnest of our speech.
For this reason and in this spirit the Irish Citizen Army, and the members of this Union gathered together on last Sunday in a drenching downpour of rain, and in face of the threat of military suppression, to voice our protest against the outrage upon Captain Monteith. He is not of our counsel, he is not of our Union, he is not of our Army, but as he was struck at by our enemy because he had the same high ideal of National Rights as we had, we sprang to offer our all for his aid. That was the true spirit of militant Irish Labour the fearless spirit which teaches the working class to guard what rights it has whilst reaching out to win greater rights for the future.
There are certain elements in Ireland to-day, and notably in important offices in Dublin, which, under the guise of caution, are disguising a timorous shrinking from the ugly realities of their position and are attempting to masquerade as astute diplomatists in the endeavour to hide from their followers their own reluctance to advance. Whilst their fate and the fate of the potential liberties of their country hangs upon the swing of the balance, these leaders who will not lead idly speculate upon the possible plans of the enemy, hatch schemes it would take a generation to mature, and pray for the coming of opportunities that are already worn weary with standing unrecognised at their elbows.
With them or without them the Irish working class goes forward to the conquest of the future. In this attack upon Germany it sees an attack upon the nation whose working class had advanced nearest to the capture of the citadels of capitalism; in this enthusiasm for Russia it sees exultation at the domination of a power rightly feared by every friend of freedom on the Continent of Europe; in this carnival of English jingoism in Ireland it sees the abandonment of all the high hopes and holy aspirations that sanctified Irish history and made the sacrifices of the past the foundation of noble achievements in the future; in this gospel of hatred preached by the capitalist press it sees the denial of human brotherhood.
Recognising in this awful hour the fearful forces arrayed against us, Labour in Ireland sees in this war a fiendish plan of the British capitalist class the most astute ruling class in the world to plant the Iron Heel upon the heart of peacefully progressing peoples, and so recognising stands ready to draw the sword, to die if need be that Freedom might live. None have suffered more than the Irish workers, none will do and dare more. Truly can it be said of them that
The sufferings of the people have been but an initiation in the worship of liberty; their sorrows were blessed, they learned a truth with every tear.
Republished in James Connolly: Lost Writings, (ed. Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh), Pluto Press 1997.