1913 Lockout – The Shape of Things to Come: The Irish Citizen Army

Lock-Out ICA

Nearly three months into the Lock-Out, on November 19th, James Larkin and James Connolly founded the Irish Citizen Army. The militia was established as a response to the harsh physical force employed by the Dublin Metropolitan Police and the Royal Irish Constabulary against striking workers. Heavy-handed baton charges of picketing crowds had resulted in the deaths of two workers, John Byrne and James Nolan.

Very deliberately established as a formal body, rather than a rag-tag troop of irregulars, the Irish Citizen Army were uniformed and engaged in regular public training routines, led by union activist and former British Army Captain Jack White. Training drills were routinely sited at Croydon Park, Fairview (above).

After the conclusion of the Lock-Out, and following an attack by the Dublin Metropolitan Police on a demonstration march in early 1914, the Irish Citizen Army were restructured at the suggestion of the playwright and author Sean O’Casey, who was General Secretary of the Army Council at the time. O’Casey personally drafted the first version of the Army’s Constitution. It was this formally-constituted version of the Irish Citizen Army which would go on to play a central role in the events of Easter Sunday 1916.

The Citizen Army never officially disbanded, although the collapse of the 1935 Republican Congress is regarded as their effective endpoint. Despite this, their last recorded public appearance was a contingent who accompanied the funeral procession of James Larkin in 1947.

By Ruairi Conneely