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Summary Article: Irish Volunteers from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Irish national defence force formed at the Rotunda, Dublin, on 25 November 1913 to defend the principle of home rule. It took its name from the Volunteers, a part-time militia which had been formed 1778–79 to protect the country from invasion. The Volunteers had played an important role in securing legislative independence in 1782, and their name still evoked strong memories in the 1910s.

Inspired by an article by Eoin MacNeill in An Claideamh Soluis, the newspaper of the Gaelic League, the formation of the Irish Volunteers was also a response to the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), which had been formed the previous year. Among the organizers was the Irish revolutionary and socialist Liam Mellows. Recruitment took place throughout the country. By March 1914 membership stood at 8,000, and guns and ammunition were smuggled into Ireland that year in the Howth gunrunning incident, led by (Robert) Erskine Childers (1870–1922). An Englishman by birth, Childers gradually became a committed republican, and was involved in the negotiations for the Anglo-Irish Treaty, which he later opposed; he was executed during the Irish Civil War (1922–23). His son, Erskine H Childers (1905–1974), was later president of Ireland, 1973–74. With the outbreak of World War I, the Irish Volunteers split. The bulk of the then 160,000-strong movement followed the Irish Parliamentary Party leader John Redmond's plea and enlisted to join the British army, as the National Volunteers. Unlike the UVF, however, they were not given distinct regiments and were deliberately separated. Only a small number remained in Ireland, rising to 11,000 in 1915. Infiltrated by the nationalist Irish Republican Brotherhood, the Irish Volunteers became embroiled in the plans for the 1916 Easter Rising to overthrow British rule.

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