by UCD Archives Staff
One of the most important sources for 1916 held in UCD Archives is a file in Éamon de Valera’s Papers entitled ‘British Documents Re: 1916’ with a note on the cover ‘Important British Documents & Letters, (Given to President de Valera) …’ consisting of intelligence reports and dispatches between Irish Command; the Commander-in-Chief, Home Forces and his staff; the War Office; M.I.5.G. and the Royal Irish Constabulary (UCDA P150/512).
Material includes copies of two cipher messages (25 May 1916) between the War Office and General Maxwell, Military Governor, concerning the request by Pádraig Pearse’s mother, Margaret, for the return of the bodies of both her sons so that she could bury them. Maxwell refuses on the grounds that ‘It will have to be done in all cases if done in one and Mrs. Pearse has already been refused by me—These graves will be turned by Irish sentimentality into the shrines of martyrs and there will be a constant irritant in the country caused by annual procession etc. to them’ (see images 1 and 2 below).
The file also includes a copy of typescript dispatch from General Maxwell to Lord French, Commander-in-Chief, Home Forces, with holograph note by Maxwell concerning Eoin MacNeill, ‘I am a little perplexed what to do about this man McNeill (sic), he is no doubt one of the most prominent in the movement though I believe he did try and stop the actual rebellion taking place when it did. The Priests and politicians will try and save him–He is not tried yet’ (4 May 1916, image 3). [A photograph of MacNeill’s countermanding order is in The O’Rahilly’s Papers in UCD Archives (UCDA P102/608]
A copy of a secret report by General Maxwell for Lord French on the ‘Sinn Fein Rebellion’ and the ‘present state of S.F. movement’ is included in the file. The report (16 May 1916, image 4) states ‘Had the enterprise of Sir R[oger] Casement succeeded the whole of the West of Ireland including Cork would have risen and I deliberately think that we have narrowly missed a most serious rebellion. Had any initial success been achieved it would have spread all over Ireland (except Ulster) and no influence of Mr. [John] Redmond [leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party] or others could have prevented this…I think I can, however, assert that recent events have proved to the extremists that rebellion without ample arms and organization cannot succeed, and that they have no chance of success against trained soldiers’.
(Images from UCD P150/512, The Papers of Éamon de Valera are reproduced under the terms of the UCD-OFM Agreement)