Although the question of taking effective measures for dealing with the seditious and pro-German activities of certain persons, classes of persons, and newspapers in Ireland had been, for some time past, engaging the attention both of the Irish Government and of the Military Authorities in Ireland, who have throughout acted in the closest conjunction in the matter, it was felt by the Government, and impressed by the War Office on the General Officer Commanding the Troops in Ireland, that action should be deferred pending the promulgation of Regulations made in pursuance of the Defence of the Realm Consolidation Act, 1914, unless the situation became so serious as to demand immediate attention.
The Regulations made under the earlier Defence of the Realm Acts had not been found satisfactory in their working.
The Royal Assent was given to the new Act on the 27th ultimo; the Regulations were made on the 28th ultimo, received in Dublin on the 30th, and published in a Supplement to the “Dublin Gazette” on the 2nd instant. The terms of the Regulations were, however, known to the Government and the Military Authorities prior to their publication in Dublin; and in the course of conferences held at the Castle it was decided that the seditious newspapers should be dealt with as soon19v20r⟨20⟩as the Regulations had been gazetted, in so far as the contents of each issue subsequently appearing justified suppressive action.
It was agreed that the printers of the various papers should be individually informed of the terms of the new Regulations and warned that the printing of these papers would be carried out at their peril, and steps were at the same time to be taken, in the event of the warning being disregarded, to secure that the printing establishment and publishing office of each offending publication should be simultaneously dealt with. In every case action was to be taken by a Constable or Constables under the order of a Military Officer who would be present and protected by any guard which the General Officer Commanding might consider necessary, and any person making resistance to the carrying out of an order was to be arrested.
The question of seditious speeches was, at the same time, discussed, and it was arranged that the Police should take shorthand notes of all speeches delivered by prominent agitators with a view to their being dealt with under the new Regulations, where necessary. No action would be taken at this stage to prevent meetings being held.
On the publication of the Regulations warnings were given to the printers of “Irish Freedom,” “Ireland, and “Fianna Fail”; of” Sinn Fein,” of “The Leader,” and of the “Irish Worker.” The December issue of “Irish Freedom,” which appeared that day contained some grossly seditious articles, and all copies that could be found in the City and Country were seized. The effect was20v21r⟨21⟩immediately apparent, and “Sinn Fein” and “Fianna Fail” stopped of their own accord after the printer had been warned. It was found necessary to give a second warning in the case of “Ireland,” and that paper ceased to appear after the issue of the 4th instant.
On that day the “Irish Worker” appeared with certain expurgations made by the printer, but as it still contained matter contravening the Regulations, all copies that could be found were seized and the type and movable parts of the printing machinery were taken possession of by the Police under instructions from the Military.
In the case of “The Leader” and the “Irish Volunteer” there was no undoubted contravention of the Regulations and no action was taken.
The net result accordingly obtained is that of the seven papers of doubtful loyalty which had come up for consideration three stopped publication of their own accord; two were and have remained sufficiently in order not to warrant seizure; and two have been dealt with.
Attempts will probably be made to revive one or other of the more seditious papers, but the existing arrangements for dealing with them will be continued and should prove effective.
With regard to treasonable speeches, the only cases that have come under notice since the promulgation of the amended Regulations have been speeches delivered in Dublin in the neighbourhood of “Liberty Hall,” at meetings organized by the leaders of the Labour organization which has its Headquarters there. Meetings were held on Sunday the 6th and Monday the 7th instant to protest against the action taken in regard to the21v22r⟨22⟩newspapers and especially to the “Irish Worker” which claims to be a Labour organ and to claim freedom for the Press. The speeches delivered on both occasions contained treasonable matter and the question of taking action against the speakers was carefully considered. In view, however, of the comparative insignificance of the first and complete insignificance of the second meetings — that on Sunday being attended by about 500 persons and that on Monday by barely one hundred — and that〈…〉〈…〉meetings, announced to take place every night until the restrictions were removed, had not since been held owing to absence of support even from the Sinn Fein Party, it was decided that no action should be taken.
The meeting at Cork on 29th November, which was addressed by Major McBride and others, prior to the publication of the new Regulations, was the subject of special consideration, but Government was advised that it was doubtful if the speeches could be effectively dealt with under the old Regulations. No action was accordingly taken.
It is, however, worthy of particular note that since the publication of the revised Regulations and the earnest given by the Authorities of their intention to carry them out where necessary, the decline of activity of the various disloyal elements in the country has become very marked. The hitherto seditious Press has either stopped publication, or is so colourless in character that action is unnecessary. Treasonable speech-making, with the exception of the unimportant “Liberty Hall” meeting, has ceased, and the circulation of disloyal and anti-recruiting pamphlets appears to have been discontinued.22v23r⟨23⟩
Finally, the Government has taken steps to prevent the circulation through the Post of the “Gaelic American,” the “Irish World,” and “The Fatherland,” all three being American weekly newspapers with a large circulation in Ireland which have been of a consistently pro-German and anti-recruiting character.