Michael Joseph Rahilly (The O’Rahilly)                 


For two years, Michael Rahilly who was known as ‘The O’Rahilly’ held the position of Director of Arms for the Irish Volunteers.                             

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He was a founder member of that organisation in 1912 which by 1914 had swollen its ranks to over 150,000 volunteers.                                         

He was originally against the Easter Rising of 1916, but when he witnessed the zeal of his comrades in going ahead with the rebellion against the British on that date, he joined in and five days later was killed in action leading a charge in Moore Street, Dublin aged 41 years. He fell under a hail of machine gun fire only to die after 24 hours lying untended in the street. He became the only member of the Provisional Committee of the Irish Volunteers to lose his life in the fighting of Easter Week 1916. He left behind a wife and five children.
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By 1914 he had been instrumental in obtaining whatever arms and equipment he could for the Volunteers. He had been in contact with veteran New York Irish Republican John Devoy asking for arms and money. America had always been an important route for arms smuggling.  Many importations of arms were surprisingly made through Belfast where the anti Home Rule and pro-British Ulster Volunteers were strongest.  In the arsenal were Mausers, Enfields, Vetterlis, Martinis and shotguns along with their respective bayonets. 

The O’Rahilly was deeply involved in the landing of 900 German M1871 Mauser  rifles and 26,000 rounds of ammunition  from the vessel ‘Asgard’ at Howth, north of Dublin and Kilcoole in County Wicklow during July 1914, which was the biggest coup and morale boost  for the Volunteers. 

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On 5th August 1914, the British law banning importation of arms was revoked but was re-imposed again on 5th December. In that interval, many weapons were brought into Ireland. The trade in Birmingham alone was supplying 800 rifles  of .303 calibre per week. Pistols, revolvers and automatics including Lugers and C96 Broomhandle Mausers were also in evidence. 

Another steady supply of rifles was from serving British soldiers, some of whom were prepared to sell their weapons for money. The going rate for a service Lee Enfield with bayonet was £5. One of the rules in joining the Irish Volunteers was that each member had to equip himself.



He had to pay out of his own pocket for his equipment which included armament -  rifle and bayonet.  O’Rahilly organised raids for arms on warehouses, he manufactured explosives, and invented a single edged socket type bayonet for use with the numerous single barrelled shotguns that were being seized in private house raids. 

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