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Tuesday, 11 November 2014

11 November 1918: At precisely 11 O’Clock in the morning the First World War came to an end on the Western Front in France and Belgium and the guns fell silent. This was as a result of the activation of the Armistice between Germany and the Allied Powers agreed just days beforehand. In Ireland the end of the War was greeted with relief rather than jubilation. Many tens of thousands of Irishmen had been killed and wounded in the fighting - perhaps as many as 30,000 dead from this island.

But to many of the Nationalists at least their sacrifice was problematical. The set of circumstances that had led John Redmond to advocate Nationalist Ireland’s participation in the War four years beforehand had changed utterly. The men from Nationalist backgrounds who had been publicly cheered to the Fronts in 1914 and 1915 could expect only a muted response when they now came home.

The Unionists, esp. in the north east, had more cause for feeling their men's sacrifice had not been in vain but it had been a bloody and costly effort nonetheless. But it was clear to everybody that the end of the War meant that new opportunities and new dangers awaited as the troops returned and post war elections beckoned that would prove a watershed in Irish Politics.

To this day the First World War resonates through Irish History as the catalyst for everything that followed through the creation of two States on this island and as the trigger that led to the Easter Rising of 1916.