Thomas MacDonagh speech in Kilkenny City 05 March 1914

Posted on Dec 9, 2015

Transcribed by Larry Scallan

Thomas MacDonagh:

I am attending tonight  as the representative of the Provisional Committee of the Irish Volunteers, we have began in Dublin and have three thousand men drilling and preparing to serve their country in this cause. Kilkenny is the first place that we are looking to in Leinster and all Ireland, for help in this movement, and from the meeting tonight we know that we had not counted falsely in counting on Kilkenny. Personally, I owe a debt of gratitude to Kilkenny. It was in Kilkenny that I received my first baptism of Nationalism. Twelve years ago I came to Kilkenny and it was in the national spirit of this town that I first learned what it was to feel the patriotism of an Irish man. As Roger Casement has said the work we have to do is urgent and it is our duty to set about it immediately. Our business is to drill and prepare ourselves  to be efficient in the cause of Ireland. The Irish volunteers have been founded to secure the rights and liberties, common to all the people of Ireland. We have no rights and liberties to maintain at the present moment; we have been slaves in our own country. We were the only  people who are ineffective and unable to defend themselves against foreign aggression. If a foreign power came to this country favourable or unfavourable to Ireland, 60000 English territorials will be landed in this country. The Irish people will have to take them into our own homes, put them up, feed them and entertain them, to preserve Ireland, forsooth for the British crown. The people are not going to have that. Within this year we hope to enroll a quarter of a million men in the Irish volunteers. The body I represent is not a political body; it is an Irish body a National body. We have no party or religious test. Our system is a territorial system. People of different religions, of different political parties, will drill side by side. The battle had not yet been won, and it is possible the Irish People will have to make a great sacrifice, perhaps the greatest sacrifice of all. This organisation of the Irish Volunteers has grown out of an organisation instituted in this Country since the days of O’Connell, under such leaders as George Henry Moore, who, in 1861, advocated Irish Volunteers
under the Fenian leaders; under Parnell and under the present leader of the Irish Party, and, to mention a leader more peculiarly my own, under the leaders of the Gaelic League . This movement is the culmination of those movements. The other night a Frenchman came to the hall in which my company was drilling. In France every citizen was a soldier, every man was trained to use arms, and this Frenchman could not very well understand how it was that the men he saw training in that company should think it necessary to spend their evenings drilling. I explained that it was only the other day we got permission to do such a thing at all, and my visitor expressed his astonishment, but said the patriotism that inspired us was magnificent. The Irish Volunteer movement is going to give an opportunity to the manhood of the country to prove it -self.

There will be a difficulty in getting rifles but it will not require an enormous amount of money to buy them. No man is too old or too young to work for his country in this matter. At the end of this meeting those who want to enroll in the Irish volunteers, should go to the town hall and give in their names. Later on arrangements for drilling ect, will be made. This is a democratic organisation. We do not want this country to be governed by force or by corruption and if this Home Rule Bill is passed the country will be goverened for a long time by corruption, doles and bribes to every department of life in Ireland.
It is not necessary to appeal  to my friends of the Gealic League to become Irish Volunteers. If a quarter of a million of Irishmen were trained and drilled in the use of arms, we will be able to give to Ireland whatever government we like.

Transcribed from the Kilkenny newspapers March 1914.