Eoin MacNeill and the use of force


Sir, – Was there an inconsistency between Eoin MacNeill’s opposition to the 1916 Rising and his support of the War of Independence, as Manus O’Riordan appears to suggest (Letters, February 26th)? I think not: the Rising lacked the popular mandate which Dáil Éireann had by virtue of the general election of December 1918. MacNeill had written in 1916 of “our duty to get our country on our side”, and the sentiment of the people is the critical difference between 1916 and the post-1918 period.

MacNeill was not a pacifist. In his memorandum of February 1916 opposing the idea of the Rising, he did not rule out the possibility of future “revolutionary action”, but he wrote that “the only possible basis for successful revolutionary action is deep and widespread popular discontent”.

He added: “We have only to look around us in the streets to realise that no such condition exists in Ireland”. True in 1916, but no longer so after 1918. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 18.