1914 – The great ‘What if?’

Posted on: 4th June, 2014

Category: The History Corner

Contributor: Samuel Kingston

Samuel Kingston studied history at NUI Galway and has a keen interest in oral and local history. He is also interested in the Irish historical experience abroad especially in Canada and South America. The aim of this column is to tell the stories of West Cork people both famous and forgotten who, through their lives at home or abroad, made an impact on their time.

ABOVE: (left) Gavrilo Princip, a Yugoslav nationalist changed the course of Irish history by killing Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo; (right) John Redmond was the most important Irish politician of his time but today he is barely remembered. 

This month is the 100th anniversary since the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. The shooting is the defining event of modern European history leading as it did to the Great War, the consequences of which, both short term and long term, affected many countries including Ireland.

Ireland in 1914 was on the cusp of great change. The events that were to occur in the following ten years radically changed the island but what if those events never occurred? In this article, I play devil’s advocate and examine how different Ireland might be if the Archduke was never killed.

In many ways the Ireland of 1914 was quite British. This era saw the rise of the comfortable classes, the civil servant type — the type who lived in the suburbs and commuted by tram into his job in Dublin Castle. He is a middle class gentleman who enjoys rugby, association football and cricket. His wife is a suffragette and a member of the Literary Revival and the Gaelic Revival. In the summer time they enjoy picnics and trips to the seaside in Kingstown. Yet, contrasting with that there is also strong nationalistic feelings growing throughout the country.

1914 is a key year in Irish history. In 1914, the politics of the day was Home Rule. It was easily the dominant politic movement on the island and 1914 was to see the introduction of Home Rule for Ireland. The majority of people were excited by the idea of self-governance and Home Rule was widely celebrated. It was a glorious time for the Irish Parliamentary Party led by John Redmond. Redmond was the most important Irish politician of this time but today he is barely remembered overshadowed by the leaders of the Rising and the war of independence. Up north though, unionists were committed to preventing Home Rule out of fear that they would not have a voice. They created the Ulster Volunteer Force in 1912 to defend themselves. In response, nationalists set up the Irish Volunteers in 1913. Originally the IRB controlled the Volunteers but they eventually came under the influence on Redmond and the Irish Parliamentary Party.

Then on June 28, 1914 everything changed. Gavrilo Princip, a Yugoslav nationalist changed the course of Irish history by killing Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. The shooting escalated into war, the start of WWI meant that Home Rule had to be put on the back burner for the time being, most people at the time assumed the war would be over by Christmas, so it would only be a temporary delay. It also created a split in the Volunteers that had major consequences for Irish history. The majority of the Volunteers became the National Volunteers with a smaller group forming the Irish Volunteers. The National Volunteers kept some 175,000 members with most going to fight in the Great War, leaving the Irish Volunteers with an estimated 13,500. This split proved advantageous to the IRB, which was now back in a position to control the organisation.

What would have happened in Ireland if Gavrilo Princip had not stumbled upon the carriage of Archduke Franz Ferdinand?

The first obvious answer is that thousands of Irish men wouldn’t have died in the Great War although some historians argue that a European wide war was inevitable and would have happened regardless.

Would Home Rule have actually been introduced? If it was, would we as a people have been happy with our lot? Thus, effectively ending the struggle for independence before it really got started. Would some Ulster counties have remained outside of Home Rule, which was a real possibility before the outbreak of the war? If forced into Home Rule would the unionists rebel and start a civil war? If there was a civil war in 1914, would this war have escalated in to a war of independence on the part of the nationalists? Would the island be divided? What about the Volunteers, would they have split anyway or remain united? It is quite possible that the more radical Volunteers would have broken off regardless. Who would have been the heroes? Would John Redmond be an iconic figure in Irish politics today? Or perhaps would people such as Eoin McNeill, Bulmer Hobson and Tom Clarke be idolised today? Would Germany have helped which in turn may have started a European wide war anyway? What about the United States, would they have remained isolated?

Furthermore, without the Great War there is a strong possibility that the Easter Rising would not have occurred. The Rising occurred because of the old adage ‘England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity’. Without the war, republicans may not have thought the time was right to attack. The knock on effects would be striking. After 1916, events snowballed with radical nationalism evolving into mainstream nationalism. Without the sympathy created by the Easter Rising, Sinn Fein would not have become prominent and the campaign for independence culminating in the war of independence would not have occurred. If Princip did not kill the Archduke, is it fair to say the Rising would never have occurred or was there enough momentum in Ireland anyway to lead to an Easter Rising type event? Would figures such as Padraig Pearse, Michael Collins and Eamonn DeValera be revered today? Would we have a Proclamation of the Republic? On the positive side, there might not have been a civil war with brother fighting brother. There are wider consequences as well. With no war of independence other British colonies would have no inspiration for their own struggle. Is it possible that the British Empire would still exist?

Thanks to Princip, these alternative timelines are just flights of fancy. Of course nobody can claim to know exactly what would have happened. All the same it’s a thought provoking subject and interesting how the act of one man in Sarajevo proved such an important event in Irish history.

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Wave to Mary! 65-year-old Mary Nolan Hickey is running around the entire coast of the Island of Ireland to raise funds & awareness for the RNLI and is currently running the roads of West Cork.

Mary is the only woman to have completed every single Dublin Marathon (all 38 of them). She’s also completed the grueling Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert, known as the ‘toughest foot race on earth’.

To mark her 50th year involved in Athletics Mary is taking on her biggest challenge yet (even though she thought she’d already done that when completing the Dublin Marathon when she was over six months pregnant!) She wants to raise as much money as possible for the RNLI.

Mary started her epic journey in Arklow, Co. Wicklow, on New Year’s Day. She aims to cover up to 5000 kilometers, using coastal routes, over the next five months. She hopes to get back in time to get her first pension payment in June when she turns 66.

Mary will stop off at as many RNLI stations as possible, on her once in a lifetime adventure. As far as she knows no other woman has ever taken on this challenge.

Speaking about her journey Mary said:

“I wanted to prove that age not a barrier. Coming from a coastal town I have a deep affinity with our local RNLI station & volunteers and have huge admiration for the brave men and women who risk their lives to save lives at sea”.

Mary, who’s depending on the goodwill of communities along her route for accommodation, has been astounded by the response so far. “The support has been overwhelming,” she said. “I have met the most amazing and encouraging people along the way”.

To see more about Mary’s adventures, and to pinpoint her location today, check out her Facebook page - rnlilapofthemap2018.

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20th March, 2018  ·  


This Saturday the 10th March, will see some magically curious activity as local Bandon national schools compete in a Wizarding Harry Potter Quiz. The prize will be the beautiful Bandon Banshee Perpetual Cup.

As any Harry Potter enthusiast knows, Bandon has the unique honour of having a character named after the town. The Bandon Banshee, was referred to as the nemesis of Gilderoy Lockhart in the Chamber of Secrets. The book grossed €60 million in sales and was the 7th highest earning film of all time.

Locals, looking to enhance the town for young people, saw the quiz as an ideal way promote the connection. The universally absorbing book series brings young readers on a huge adventure of magic, adversity and triumph. It is also an exploration of loyalty and friendship, good and evil – so it is not only popular way to engage young people, it is a hugely positive connection.

Zoe Tennyson, one of the organisers said they were delighted with the response from schools who ran a qualifying quiz as part of World Book Day. On Saturday Bandon Town Hall will be transformed into Hogwarts Great Hall, with proceeds going Bandon Playground Group, and to cover costs of the event.

Bandon Books will be rewarding the winning team with vouchers to each of the five members. The Bandon Banshee, or Bean-sidhe na Bandaan Perpetual Cup will be hotly contested – but which school will the Banshee go to??

If you have any questions please call Marguerite McQuaid on 087 900 9494
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8th March, 2018  ·  

Ballineen Foróige Young Engineers Exhibition 23 February 2018

The inaugural Ballineen Foróige Young Engineers Exhibition will take place in Gort Mhuire Hall in Ballineen this Friday 23rd February. As part of Engineers Week 2018, leaders and members of Ballineen Foróige Club have organised an exhibition which will showcase a diverse and exciting range of engineering projects that have been undertaken by members of the club over the last few weeks, with the aid of leaders and a number of local engineers.

With the aid of local pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, along with the support of STEAM Education, a UCC based company focused on promoting science, technology, engineering, arts, and maths subjects in primary schools, Ballineen Foróige has been engaging members and leaders in all things engineering over the last six weeks. From researching, designing, and prototyping a project based on local problems, to participating in various workshops on coding and careers in engineering, Ballineen Foróige have been extremely busy in preparation for the exhibition this coming Friday night.

On the night itself, Michael Loftus, Head of Engineering at CIT, Fintan Goold, Manager at Eli Lilly and All-Ireland Cork winning Footballer, along with Geraldine Coughlan of GCA Architects & Designers, a local business, will act as judges on the night, evaluating the different engineering projects and offering some advice to the members of the club. Also in attendance will be the CEO of Foróige Seán Campbell, along with a number of local councillors, TD’s and Senators.

Leading the team of Ballineen Foróige leaders organising the event, is Rebecca Dwyer, a bioprocess engineer at Eli Lilly. Rebecca recently became a leader in the club and says that Ballineen Foróige Young Engineer Exhibition 2018 “promises to be a fun, challenging and rewarding experience for all involved and we look forward to welcoming parents, relatives, friends and members of the public to the exhibition and film screening on the evening of Friday 23rd February.” Overall, there are twelve projects entered in the exhibition. One project, led by Cian Kennefick and Charlie Nolan, members of the starting out club, examines the possibility of installing speed ramps on the road near local primary school. Fourteen-year-old Charlie says he got involved in the project as it was something to do and it gets you thinking. Cian says the most exciting part of the project was the building of the prototypes.

Both Cian and Charlie, along with thirty other members of the club will display their projects this coming Friday 23 February in Gort Mhuire Hall in Ballineen. Doors open at 8pm and the event runs until 10pm. All are welcome to attend, and admission is free. Catering, including tea and coffee, will be provided on the night.
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20th February, 2018  ·  

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Main course

17th February, 2018  ·  

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