BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

24 September 2014
Wars and Conflict - Newspaper Archive

BBC Homepage
Wars and

 Easter Rising
 Radio archive
 Rebel songs
 Press archive

 Go further

Contact Us

by topic by time by people
The Irish Times, Wednesday, 10th May 1916
Sir John Maxwell's Position

Wednesday, 10th May 1916

1 2

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.

They will not be satisfied with the Prime Minister’s reply....

The Nationalist and Liberal critics have short memories. They would not, and could not, have spoken in this fashion a fortnight ago. A desperate plot was hatched for the disruption of the British Empire by means of an insurrection in Ireland. It was put into execution at a moment when England and Ireland were fighting for life against a foreign enemy. That enemy fomented and helped it with arms, money and promises. The Government’s critics have acknowledged these facts. Sir John Maxwell was entrusted with the crushing of this insurrection. His success, so far as direct military operations are concerned has been complete. Many of the actual plotters and leaders of the insurrection and a large number of their followers – mostly very young and utterly deluded men, fell into his hands. As we have said, the Government, Sir John Maxwell and the whole public of England and Ireland are not merely willing, but anxious that in the case of these latter, clemency should be pushed to the limit of safety. The case of the arch conspirators is entirely different. The majority of them were able and educated men. They appreciated thoroughly the nature of their enterprise and the consequences of defeat. We believe that some of them have accepted these consequences with courage and composure.

The Irish Times,
Wednesday, 10th May 1916
Return to Index
1 2

Newspaper Archive
Return to Top of Page

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy