St Patrick’s Day 1916: Irish Volunteers hold military manoeuvres

1916/2016 Diary: Play about Roger Casement’s role to have premiere in Temple Bar

St Patrick’s Day, 1916

St Patrick's Day 1916 was a very busy one for the Irish Volunteers in their last public engagement before the Easter Rising. On that day the Dublin battalions held a field day in the city with about 2,000 participants. The different sections paraded in the morning at various city churches and later the whole force assembled in College Green for military manoeuvres, concluding with a march past inspected by Eoin MacNeill.

The Irish Times noted the operations lasted for two hours between 11am-1pm and trams and other vehicular traffic were "peremptorily suspended by the volunteers, most of whom carried rifles and bayonets". Leaflets were handed out which documented "20 plain facts for Irishmen". The leaflets stated "it is the duty of every Irishman who desires for his country her natural right of freedom and for himself the natural right of a freeman to be an Irish volunteer".

The paper noted the demonstration was the “first time volunteers had taken aggressive action in daylight, but on several occasions during the early weeks of the year they had conducted night manoeuvres and practised street fighting in open spaces especially between Saturday night and Sunday morning and one night their operations consisted of surrounding the entrance to Dublin Castle.

“The police on each occasion were eye-witnesses of the operation but did not interfere with the movement of the volunteers.”



McKenna's Fort, a play about Roger Casement's role in the Rising will have its world premiere next week at the New Theatre in Temple Bar. It is written by Arnold Thomas Fanning and draws from Casement's infamous Black Diaries, with Michael Bates as Sir Roger Casement.

It is the first play to explore Casement's much-disputed sexuality and his commitment to humanitarian causes. The play has been facilitated by the Arts Council of Ireland which allowed the author to travel to Peru to research the drama. The title comes from the place where Casement (pictured) landed off the coast of Kerry on Good Friday, 1916, and was captured.

On Saturday RTÉ Radio One begins a series of four documentaries that give a different perspective on the Rising. Beginning at 2pm, The Battle at the Bridge challenges the conventional narrative of the Battle of Mount Street Bridge as a heroic stand by a few brave young volunteers.

The Irish Heritage Trust and Strokestown Community Development Association have put on a special display of rare objects linked to Ireland's struggle for independence at Strokestown House and in the town.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times