Major arms find in Dublin
500 rifles intercepted on way to Ulster
Published: 7 June 1913
A large consignment of rifles, thought to have been bound for Ulster, has been seized by customs officials at Dublin Port. The arms were concealed in packing cases in a furniture van and were addressed to Lord Farnham in Co. Cavan. Lord Farnham, who is strongly identified with anti-Home Rule agitation, has said that he knows ‘absolutely nothing’ about the matter.
The rifles are thought to have been of Italian manufacture and may have been used during the recent Italian-Turkish war around Tripoli.
Customs officials, acting on a tip-off, discovered the rifles upon the arrival of the City of Dublin Company’s steamship, Kerry. The officials had stationed themselves along the dock at the North Wall in Dublin Port to watch the discharge of cargo from the ship. The packing cases full of rifles were quickly found and were seized.
The find in Dublin comes just three days after a similar find in Belfast. Custom officials in that city impounded twelve cases of rifles and bayonets that had landed early on Tuesday, brought by a steamship from Manchester.
The rifles had been disguised in cases designated as ‘electrical plant’, but it is thought that the authorities at Belfast Port had been tipped-off by telegram as to the true nature of the contents. The full consignment has been estimated to contain at least 500 rifles.
Although there are suggestions that the importation of the rifles was a stunt designed to frighten away support for Home Rule by implying that civil war in Ireland was increasingly likely, the government is reported to take a grave view of the latest turn of events.
Police in Britain and in Ireland are now seeking to investigate the origins of both consignments.
Preparations for military opposition to Home Rule in 1913 pre-dated the June importation of arms. A Minute from Chief Secretary’s Office refers to allegations that an ex-school teacher from Kilrea in Londonderry was raising funds prepare unionists to defend themselves against ‘the rule of Rome and the priests’. Dated 16 January 1913 (National Archives UK, CO 904/28).
A memorandum from 1911 sets out legal position regarding the importation of arms into Ireland. It states that the legality of supply or keeping of arms ‘must depend in each case on all the circumstances’ (National Archives UK, CO 904/28).
Preparations for military resistance to Home Rule were a feature of Unionist opposition to each of the three Home Rule Bills. There is an extract from a listing of Persons taking part in Drilling at Rich Hill Demesne, in the Portadown district, on 2 June 1886 (National Archives UK, CO 904/28).
The unlawful assembly of more than 500 persons at Rich Hill Demesne in June 1886 for the purpose of ‘being trained or drilled to the practice of military exercise movements’ was subsequently addressed at the Petty Sessions in Co. Armagh (National Archives UK, CO 904/28).