The Curragh Mutiny in Context

Conference Report

This conference, held to mark the centenary of a crucial event in British as well as Irish political history, took place at the Curragh on 20 March 2014. The convenors were Professor Eunan O’Halpin and Professor Anne Dolan of the Centre for Contemporary Irish History, and the event was supported by the Defence Forces.

Leading historians of the era from Ireland and Britain were joined by senior Irish and British legal figures to explore issues arising from the Curragh ‘Incident’, ‘Mutiny’ or ‘Crisis’. The event, organised in conjunction with the Defence Forces, took place in Ceannt Barrack, the Curragh. Attendance included former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave and Professor Risteard Mulcahy, whose fathers were members of government during the Irish ‘army crisis’ of March 1924. The Honorable George Fergusson, Governor of Bermuda, whose grandfather Sir Charles Fergusson commanded the 5th Division at the Curragh in March 2014, also attended and addressed the conference.

Following the historical presentations, barristers Roger Sweetman SC and Professor Eoin O’Dell BL presented contrasting analyses of the legal issues. These were deliberated on by a panel of judges: Mr Justice Ronan Keane (Chief Justice of Ireland, 2000-2004), Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell (Supreme Court of Ireland) and Sir Richard Aikens PC (Court of Appeal of England and Wales). 
Following the close of proceedings, George Fergusson proposed a toast in Ponsonby Officers’ Mess (now Plunkett Barracks), the ante-room in which the controversial meeting of officers took place on 21 March 1914.

The conference was attended by a capacity audience of over one hundred people.

While all speakers agreed on the gravity and wider political consequences of the crisis of March 1914, neither the historians nor the lawyers were unanimous on the specific question of whether or not any laws were actually broken in March 1914 because the army were never given direct orders to do what the officers at the Curragh said they would refuse to do.


The conference proceedings can be viewed by following these links:

  1. Post-conference reflections and toast
  2. Conference welcome and introduction to the Curragh
    (Major General Seamus ó Giolláin)
  3. Session 1 opening
    (Professor Anne Dolan)
  4. Dublin Castle and the Curragh Crisis
    (Professor Eunan O’Halpin)
  5. The Army and Ireland since 1801
    (Professor Tom Bartlett)
  6. Armed Services, Government and Crown in 1914
    (Professor Ian Beckett)
  7. Ulster Unionists and the Army
    (Dr Tim Bowman)
  8. Sir Henry Wilson and the defence of the Union
    (Professor Keith Jeffery)
  9. The framework of military law in 1914
    (Barry Bowman)
  10. Was there a mutiny or other breach of the law – 1
    (Roger Sweetman SC)
  11. Was there a mutiny or other breach of the law – 2
    (Eoin O’Dell BL)
  12. The Government and Ireland, 1911-1914
    (Professor Ronan Fanning)
  13. Judges’ views:
    Mr Justice Ronan Keane
  14. Judges’ views:
    Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell
  15. Judges’ views:
    Sir Richard Aikens
  16. Sir Charles Fergusson and the Curragh Incident:
    George Fergusson