“Gone were all awkwardness and self-consciousness, and the men looked like soldiers”: 17.3.16

Ever since the Volunteers were formed in 1913 detectives or police accompanied all marching  parties of Volunteers, and when the split came the same system of observation was maintained in both sections, viz. Irish Volunteers and National Volunteers. In the beginning and for some time the Volunteers looked self-conscious in their uniforms, most of which were not too well tailored. As the men were of all shapes, sizes and ages, some with beards and others with spectacles, they often presented a rather “gawky” appearance as compared with the police or British military.

There was, however, a gradual improvement in appearance and police who accompanied the St. Patrick’s Day, 1916, parade of the Irish Volunteers commented on the remarkable turn out of  the men on that day. Gone were all awkwardness and self-consciousness, and the men looked  like soldiers, no longer dominated by their uniforms, and, with rifles and bayonets, had acquired  a workmanlike and purposeful air comparable to the best British infantry battalions of the time.

Full reports were made by the police on that day’s marches, and again nobody seemed to give the matter much thought in British Government circles.

All this time, however, police raids were continuously being made on newsagent’s shops, and mosquito printing plants, and what they styled “seditious literature” was constantly being seized, accompanied frequently by arrests for disloyal activities.

The Castle authorities never appeared to anticipate a rising by the Volunteers. They did expect resistance to arrest or disarmament and believed they held the initiative as to whether there would be a clash or not. The British at this time purported to be fighting for democracy and small nationalities on the continent and appeared to be unwilling to admit to themselves or anybody else that they were really holding down Ireland against the wishes of the Irish people…

Bureau of Military History testimony of Eamon Broy, I.R.A. Intelligence Agent, Dublin Castle, later Garda Siochana Commissioner

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