Prelude to the Easter Rising of 1916

Prelude to the Easter Rising of 1916
The Signatories of the Proclamation

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

10 May 1916

Prime Minister Herbert Asquith

John Edward Redmond M.P.

In the House of Commons on Monday Mr Redmond asked the Prime Minister to put an immediate stop to the execution of rebels in Dublin. His demand reflects the attitude of the official National Press and of some of the leading Liberal newspapers in England. They will not be satisfied with the Prime Minister’s reply. He refused in effect to interfere with the full discretion which has been left in the hands of the General Officer Commanding the Forces in Ireland. Sir John Maxwell is not in Dublin for the purpose of conducting a "Bloody Assize". He would reject so hateful a task with anger and scorn. The Government sent him to Ireland in order that he might suppress a dangerous insurrection, exact the necessary penalties and lay a solid foundation for the re-establishment of order and law. He has done, and is doing, this responsible work to the satisfaction of the Government, which nobody will accuse of indifference to Irish Nationalist opinion. Mr Asquith told Mr Redmond that Sir John Maxwell has been in direct and personal communication with the Cabinet. It has great confidence in the exercise of his discretion in particular cases. His general instructions are "to sanction the infliction of the extreme penalty as sparingly as possible, and only in cases of responsible persons who were guilty in the first degree." The government and Sir John Maxwell are equally anxious that these cases should be confined within the narrowest limits, and should cease at the earliest possible moment. In reply to Mr Ginnell, who asked that no more rebels should be executed before the House of Commons had received an opportunity of discussing the matter, Mr Asquith said: – "I cannot give any such undertaking." We suppose that Irishmen who support the Government’s attitude will be accused of promiscuous ferocity, even though, like ourselves, they have expressed an earnest desire that a generous measure of mercy should be attended to the ignorant and misguided rank and file of the rebel army. Nevertheless, we hasten to express our strong conviction that Mr Asquith is taking the right – indeed, the only possible – course. It is not a question of fair play to Sir John Maxwell or to any other individual. The safety of the whole Kingdom and the peace of Ireland are at stake.

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