With failure of the German offensives on the Western Front the threat of conscription in Ireland has receded. Nevertheless the country remains in a ferment, with nationalists continuing to campaign against any proposal to introduce conscription. Many are now preparing plans to sever the link between Ireland and Britain, bringing an end to the United Kingdom. The British authorities have responded with repression. Leaders of Sinn Féin have been arrested under wartime emergency powers, accused of working to assist a planned German invasion. Nationalist public meetings have been banned.
The ban on nationalist meetings includes sporting events organised by the Gaelic Athletic Association. GAA members play camogie or hurling and Gaelic football rather than hockey and rugby or soccer, which marks them out as suspicious to the authorities. Many in the GAA are supporters of Irish nationalism and the British see their fixtures as occasions for sedition. In support of the ban on nationalist gatherings, members of the Royal Irish Constabulary have been breaking up GAA matches, baton-charging onlookers.
Now the GAA strikes back in an event that becomes known as Gaelic Sunday. Today at 3.00 pm across the country some 1,800 Gaelic games take place, with tens of thousands of men and women taking part in these matches and many more watching. Against a widespread protest of this scale the authorities are powerless. The act of defiance has the deserved effect: the British authorities retreat from their policy of direct confrontation with the GAA.
Freeman’s Journal report on Gaelic Sunday (Come Here To Me: Camogie and protest on the streets of Dublin: Gaelic Sunday, 1918)