Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Sir Matthew Nathan
3 January 1862 – 18 April 1939
On Good Friday, 21 April 1916, Nathan was informed that a German boat had been stopped off the coast of County Kerry carrying arms and ammunition, and that a man had been arrested after coming ashore from another vessel. The man arrested was subsequently identified as Sir Roger Casement.
A mobilization of the Irish Volunteers fixed for Easter Sunday was cancelled the day before. Nathan, believing that a rising had been averted, discussed with the Lord Lieutenant, Lord Wimborne, the necessity of raiding premises associated with the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army and arresting their leaders. Nathan cabled Birrell, the Chief Secretary, in London to obtain authorisation for these actions.
On Easter Monday, 24 April 1916, while he was in his office in Dublin Castle awaiting Birrell's response, the Easter Rising broke out and Dublin Castle itself was attacked. The Castle gates were closed and the rebels did not press the attack, but Nathan was a virtual prisoner until troops arrived from the Curragh Camp on Monday evening.
Nathan remained in the Castle for the rest of the week (being moved to the stables to accommodate the military) where he kept in contact with London, keeping the government up to date with the situation and helping to answer questions in Parliament.
The Rising was finally brought to an end on 30 April. The same day Birrell offered his resignation, and on 3 May, at Birrell's request, Nathan also resigned.
The Royal Commission on the 1916 Rebellion (the Hardinge commission) was critical of Birrell and Nathan, in particular their failure to take action against the rebels in the weeks and months before the Rising.