Sunday 18 March 2018

Gas craic as the flow of booze resumes in city

Damian Corless

The best news brought to the capital by the Irish Independent on May 10, 1916, arrived under the headline "Gas Resumption". After two weeks of disrupted heating and light, the Alliance & Dublin Consumers' Gas Company announced that normal service would be resumed from noon that same day.

The resumption of the city's booze supply also made the news, although the writer appeared less than happy that restricted pub opening was casting a curse on the drinking classes.

"The liquorous and bibulous must now give up their business between 2 and 5pm. After five the flow of soul and nectar ceases," he wrote.

The capital was still under martial law, and British army troops were swarming about after the 8.30pm curfew.

The Independent remarked: "The green swards of the city have been suddenly turned into training grounds. Notably in the College Park and Merrion Square, soldiers are drilling up to a rather late hour in the evening."

With many of the capital's amusements shut or destroyed, many Dubliners were filling their spare time with gawking at the many demolition works in progress. One reporter was distinctly unimpressed. Under the headline, "Levelling The Ruins", he wrote: "Anything unaccustomed fascinates the crowd. Thousands have been watching the pulling down of masonry. I did not find it an agreeable diversion. The immense cloud of lime dust after each descent should be good for the oculists (eye doctors)."

Firms were still getting back to business and putting a brave face on their difficulties. One firm declared itself: "Burnt out but quite ready to sell or repair cycles or motors." Switzer's of Grafton Street invited back customers, while Clerys announced it was resuming postal deliveries from a makeshift headquarters.

The caption on a photo of the rebel leader James Connolly said he "still lies in Dublin Castle slowly recovering from his wounds". An editiorial had no doubt that the chief of the Citizen Army must pay for his crimes with his life, while noting that the administration was now playing a deadly game of Russian roulette.

The paper reported that Prime Minister Herbert Asquith had instructed the British Army chief in Ireland, John Maxwell, to "sanction the infliction of the extreme penalty as sparingly as possible". Twelve men had died by firing squad and the Irish Independent noted that the Manchester Guardian had called the drawn-out executions "an atrocity", with even the staunchly unionist Express arguing "it is now time to show that the government can be merciful as well as strong".

While setting itself against "extreme leniency", the Irish Independent saw the straws in the wind, arguing the administration must "take such measures as will put an end once and for all to the criminal madness which inspired the recent rising, but they must not be so severe as to create a revulsion of feeling that would make martyrs".

The paper argued that all rebels under the age of 21 should be "let off", but the "ringleaders, instigators and fomenters" must get their just deserts.

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