21 April 1918: An anti Conscription Pledge was taken throughout Ireland on this day. It was taken throughout the Country as opposition to the proposed measure gathered pace. Four days before this the British House of Commons had passed the Military Service Bill, which empowered the British Government to enforce conscription – compulsory service in the British Army – for all men of military age in Ireland. This was the catalyst for a mobilization of Nationalist Ireland to resist what was seen as a gross imposition by Britain on the Irish People.
Acting on a resolution of Dublin Corporation, the Lord Mayor of Dublin (Laurence O'Neill) called a conference at the Mansion House, Dublin. The Irish Anti-Conscription Committee was convened to devise plans to resist conscription, and represented different sections of nationalist opinion: John Dillon and Joseph Devlin for the Irish Parliamentary Party, Éamon de Valera and Arthur Griffith for Sinn Féin, William O'Brien and Timothy Michael Healy for the All-for-Ireland Party and Michael Egan, Thomas Johnson and W X O'Brien representing Labour and the Trade Unions. [above]
Eamon De Valera devised the pledge that was to be taken:
‘Denying the right of the British Government to enforce compulsorily service in this Country, we pledge ourselves solemnly to one another to resist conscription by the most effective means at our disposal.’
On the evening of the same day, the Roman Catholic bishops were holding their annual meeting and declared the conscription decree an oppressive and unjust law, and called on Catholics to resist "by the most effective means at our disposal" (if "consonant with the law of God.")
The Anti-Conscription Committee and bishops proposed that the anti-conscription pledge was to be taken at the church door of every Catholic parish on the following Sunday, 21 April.
Due to the clear intent of Nationalist Ireland to resist such an imposition the British Government baulked at actually implementing such a drastic measure and by the time the War ended some months later in November 1918 it still had not been introduced.