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After the 1916 Rising, Redmond and Dillon could be considered the main political victims, while Arthur Griffith and Eamon De Valera were the main political beneficiaries of the Rising. After the Executions of the main people involved, public opinion in Ireland became to change. Seeing that Sinn Fein was blamed for the Rebellion, known as the “Sinn Fein Rebellion”, people turned towards them. This caused a major development in the Sinn Fein Party. Between the years of 1917-19, Sinn Fein will begin to develop more and more, as well as the IRA, there use of infiltrating other groups showed their development in becoming the main army for Ireland. The essay will discuss how Sinn Fein became the main political party of Ireland, and not the Irish Parliamentary Party, also how the IRA developed into an army and not just another organisation. It will show their growth as a party and an army, with clubs and branches stretching across Ireland. This was the beginning of something for Sinn Fein and the IRA.
After 1916, the Republican movement emerged as a major force seeking to complete Independence. The movement initially struggled for the first couple of months after the 1916 Rising, several major figures were executed, while British authorities repressed anything relating to the movement. Innocent Irish civilians and many of the 2000 IRB rank and file members were imprisoned, most of them sent to prison camps without a trial, the most famous of these prisons was Frongoch in Wales. By May 1917 say all prisoners of the Rising released, most of these people released became influenced by the Republican Activists they were incarcerated with. They who were released committed themselves to get an Independent Ireland. The men now took over the IRB and the Irish Volunteers, they gravitated towards Sinn Fein. Now Sinn Fein had an ample number of followers, along with the Backing of the IRB and the Volunteers, so Sinn Fein began to set its self out in achieving full Independence for Ireland. From just being another party to become later on the main political party, Sinn Fein popularity rose exceptionally by the beginning of 1917, their lust of an independent Ireland attracted a nation that had been suppressed too long.
There was a rise in major events that would happen throughout the year of 1917, these main events were the by-elections. In February 1917, Count Plunkett, father of Rising leader Joseph Plunkett, won and was elected Sinn Fein representative for Roscommon. He tried to make an early bid for leadership of the emerging separatist movement, but would be quickly set aside by Eamon De Valera. The National Council chose one of the prisoners in Lewes Gaol prison to be Sinn Fein’s representative in Longford, his name was Joseph McGuinness. McGuinness was a member of the IRB and used him for propaganda. They used posters of him in convict clothes, with the slogan, “put him in to get him out”, he appealed to the young nationalist and on May 9 he won by a margin of thirty-seven votes. A vacancy arose in East Clare, caused by the death of William Redmond in France, De Valera was nominated for it and won by a landslide in July. In August Cosgrave won the election in Kilkenny. De Valera spectacular victory at Clare enabled him to fight off anyone looking for the leadership of Sinn Fein, such as Count Plunkett. Even Arthur Griffith stepped down to vice presidency to allow De Valera to become President of Sinn Fein and the Irish Volunteers in October of 1917. De Valera was seen as the new party and not the old, he was the person to unite both the evolutionary Sinn Fein side, MacNeil and Griffith and the revolutionary Easter Week side, Brugha and Plunkett, De Valera was accepted by all. They knew they couldn’t beat England at a war, so they set themselves out by beating them in the political field, and it was working. Sinn Fein was growing more and more every year.
With the winning of many by-elections, it showed that the country had defiantly swung against the policy of the Irish Parliamentary Party, who still longed to achieve Home Rule. People looked towards the more vibrant, young party of Sinn Fein, who set themselves out in achieving full independence for Ireland. With fear of the growing Sinn Fein party, Lloyd George set up the Irish convention to draw up proposals for Irish self-government within the British Empire, this convention first met in July 1917. Sinn Fein and The Labour Party decided to boycott the convention and refused to go. This was because they didn’t have any interest in being a part of the British Empire, they wanted full independence from Britain. Instead of going to the convention, they had their own, called the Sinn Fein “Ard-Fheis”, which was held in Mansion house Dublin on October 25, 1917, this is where De Valera would become Leader. This gained a lot more support for Sinn Fein, refusing to attend the conference. Evidently the Irish convention was a failure, it proposed a limited form of Home Rule and it also tried to impose conscription in Ireland. Sinn Fein gradually gained more and more support as the year went on, refusing to attend this showed the public that they were fully onboard for Irish independence.
Conscription Act was to be passed in the British parliament on April 16, but it met with a lot of backlash and controversary by all parties. There was a lot of protests happening. The Irish Party withdrew from the House of Commons, while Sinn Fein, the Irish Parliamentary Party and Labour drew up an anti-conscription petition, to be signed by everyone, even the Catholic Church signed the petition. The conscription crisis caused a lot more people to join the IRA, and there numbers increased rapidly, similar to Sinn Fein there support and party grew because of this, the anti-British feeling grew intensely. Britain knew they were failing to keep Sinn Fein at bay, so they decided on May 18, 1918, that they proved there was a German plot within Sinn Fein’s party. Many of the Sinn Fein leaders such as, De Valera and Griffith were arrested and imprisoned, but Collins managed to escape it. This left Collins and Brugha to be trusted to take over for the arrested leaders. While De Valera was still in prison, the general election of December 1918 took place, this election saw Sinn Fein win seventy-three seats out of 105, while the Unionists won twenty-three seats, Irish Parliamentary party won six seats and the Labour party did not go for election, so they wouldn’t split the national front. This saw Sinn Fein become the main political party in Ireland. After becoming the main political party, Sinn Fein refused to go to Westminster, as they wanted to show their independence to the world. This helped them to be invited onto the peace conference after World War One, as an independent country. Sinn Fein development as a party grew exponentially, as now Ireland was seen as an independent country.
By 1917, after all prisoners have been released from prison, they were all more radical and wanted Irish independence. These released prisoners eventually took over groups such as the IRB and the Irish Volunteers. For the IRB, Brugha wanted to get rid it for good, he felt that it served its purpose. This was not good enough for Michael Collins, who wanted to set out in reiving the IRB and also the Irish Volunteers, who would later become the IRA. In 1917 an army convention is held, this is where the name, The Irish Volunteers would become, The Irish Republican Army or the IRA. Collins knew that he could not just go back to war with the British, not just yet anyways, he had to build up the army in a different way. Collins set himself out to infiltrate the Sinn Fein, as the IRB did to The Irish Volunteers in 1916. The IRB was able to take over the Sinn Fein party because of the by-elections, people such as Plunkett and McGuinness, who were both members of the IRB. The IRB were gaining more and more control as the years went on. Collins was a significant reason for the growth of the IRA, not only did he have members apart of Sinn Fein, he also became part of Sinn and every other group around it. At the beginning there was no IRA, but with the release of prisoners, the membership grew in numbers.
Collins was the main reason for the growth of the IRA, he was a very good influencer and a better organiser. It was his rise to power that brought everything together, in 1918 after the election, Collins became minister for finance. For the IRA, Collins was Director of Organisation of the Army and he was also President of the IRB. Collins used his time very affectedly, there was no waste when it came to him. One significant event that really helped Collins to develop the IRA was the German plot. When the German plot came out, most of the Sinn Fein leaders were arrested, but not Collins, he used this time to go through county to county in connection with the Easter week prisoners fund to gain more and more support. The use of the German plot and the scare of the conscription crises increased the numbers of Sinn Fein. By the end of 1918, Sinn Fein was organised into 1354 clubs with 112,080 members, this was down to Collins gaining more support as he went through the country. After the conscription crisis there was an increase in numbers in the Irish Volunteers, they didn’t really use the name IRA until 1919, and the IRB. For this, the IRA needed weapons and arms as it was increasingly becoming more popular. Collins came up with the idea of guerrilla tactics, hit your enemy and take their armoury and then retreat. Collins and the IRA raided police barracks, killed British officers and stole their weapons, this tactic will be later used in the War of Independence against the British. The IRA was recognised as an Army by the end of 1919 by Then Dail, this was because of having leaders such as Collins being involved in many groups and clubs throughout the country, it aloud for more support and members for the IRA.
In Conclusion, the development of Sinn Fein came down too many reasons, but one of their main ones was that they wanted a fully independent Ireland. They gained a lot of support from the public and groups such as the IRB and clubs around the country. This caused them to win many by-elections and eventually win the 1918 election. They went from being a party that didn’t have much say in 1916, to the main political party in Ireland by 1919. For the IRA, they eventually developed into the main army in 1919, this was down to Michael Collins use as an organiser. Collins had many connections with the IRB and Sinn Fein, this increased the popularity of the IRA. It showed their development from a defeated Irish Volunteers, to the main army in Ireland.
- Bureau of Military History
- Bowden, Tom. “The Irish Underground and the War of Independence 1919-21.” Journal of Contemporary History, 8, 1973
- Gallagher, Tara, “A pocket of History of the 1916 Rising” (Dublin 2015)
- Lee, J. J, “Ireland 1912-1985” (Cork 1989)
- Neesan, Eoin, “Birth of a Republic” (Dublin 1998)
- O’Hegarty, P. S, “The victory of Sinn Fein” (Dublin 1998)
- Patrick Coogan, Timothy, “Ireland since the Rising” (New York 1966)
- Townshend, Charles. “The Irish Republican Army and the Development of Guerrilla Warfare, 1916-1921.” The English Historical Review, 94, (1979)
 BMH # 1766
 Tara Gallagher, “A pocket of History of the 1916 Rising” (Dublin 2015) p. 167
 Tara Gallagher, “1916 Rising” p.167
 Timothy, Patrick Coogan, “Ireland since the Rising” (New York 1966) p.22
 Timothy, Patrick Coogan, “Ireland since the Rising” (New York 1966) p.22
 P. S. O’Hegarty, “The Victory of Sinn Fein” (Dublin 1998) p.13
 Timothy, Patrick Coogan, “Ireland since the Rising” (New York 1966) p.23
 J. J. Lee, “Ireland 1912-1985” (Cork 1989) p.41
 BMH #1324
 BMH #1698
 J. J. Lee, “Ireland 1912-1985” (Cork 1989) p.41
 Eoin Neesan, “Birth of a Republic” (Dublin 1998), p.192
 Timothy Patrick Coogan, “Ireland since the Rising” (New York 1966) p.25
 Tom Bowden. “The Irish Underground and the War of Independence 1919-21.” Journal of Contemporary History, 8, 1973, p.12
 Timothy Patrick Coogan, “Ireland since the Rising” (New York 1966) p.24
 P. S. O’Hegarty, “The Victory of Sinn Fein” (Dublin 1998) p.20
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