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Historical Context & Background

July 18th, 2016 Posted by Archive 0 comments on “Historical Context & Background”

It was in a small row of houses in North King Street that the British army executed 15 civilian men during the 1916 Rising. A military court of inquiry was held and found that no specific soldier could be held responsible for the killings and as such no action was taken against the South Staffordshire regiment that conducted the atrocity. In fact, the results of the inquiry were buried and only came to light in 2001.

British troops had suffered over 40 casualties in this inner city area of Dublin during the previous days of the rising. General Lowe had ordered that, “no hesitation was to be shown in dealing with these rebels; that by their actions they had placed themselves outside the law and that they were not be made prisoners”. Infuriated with the losses they had suffered, on late Friday evening and early Saturday morning, the troops of the South Staffordshire regiment under orders from Col. Taylor, broke into the homes of the locals and shot or bayoneted 15 civilian men whom they accused of being rebels.

None of the victims had any connection whatsoever with the insurrection and indeed some were entirely opposed to it. The houses were never at any time occupied by the volunteers and no traces of arms or ammunition were found on the premises. None of the murders were committed during a sudden attack or assault or in the heat of passion. In fact, in some cases several hours elapsed allowing for ample consultation. General Maxwell afterwards made the luminous statement: “Possibly some unfortunate incidents which we regret now, may have occurred… it is even possible that under the horrors of this attack some of them saw red, that is the inevitable consequences of a rebellion of this kind”. The top Home Office official, Sir Edward Troup, told the prime minister, Herbert Asquith: “The root of the mischief was the military order to take no prisoners”.

At the military court of inquiry, the presiding officer thought the South Staffords were, ‘a quiet and very respectable set of men’ and ruled that no specific soldier could be held responsible for the killings’. The full findings of this enquiry are due to be released in 2016.