William O’Malley (1853-1939) was a native of Ballyconneely and served as MP for Connemara, where he first stood as an Anti-Parnellite in 1895. He was later an MP with John Redmond’s Irish Parliamentary Party and resided for most of his career in England. In 1918 he lost his Galway seat to Sinn Féin’s Pádraic Ó Máille. The following is from a speech he delivered at a recruitment rally held in Galway in February 1916.
“Don’t mind what Sinn Feiners or anyone else may tell you”, Mr O’Malley continued, “I tell you that we have as much right to stand by England as to ourselves, for England has done well by Ireland, and there is not a house in London that has not sent out men to defend our liberties as well as their own. The House of Lords and the House of Commons have sent numbers to the front, and we are all fighting for the common Empire.” (Hear, Hear)
Mr. O’Malley continuing, said the farmers all over England had not done so well and now they were to be compelled and when they got the opportunity to take their own choice in Ireland, they ought to come forward voluntarily in their thousands, and not be holding back (hear, hear), because never in the whole history of the human race was there a war like this one (applause). The whole history and tradition of liberty was fighting for its life, and England and France, Russia, Italy, Poland, and all the other nations were making a determined last stand for human rights, liberties and freedom (applause). And was the Irish farmer to hold back in this Crisis? (Cries of No, no). Belgium, Poland, Serbia, Montenegro, and other small nationalities has been ruined, and nearly annihilated and so would Ireland be if England and the Allies were beaten, and it would be a monstrous disgrace and discredit to Ireland if she did not take her part in this fight for human right and human freedom (applause).
This was a war of Civilisation against Barbarism – of Christianity against immorality and paganism, of right against might and force. The German nation was a nation of Atheists; they did not believe in Christianity; they believed in the power of the sword. Freedom would be worth having when the Germans were beaten, and Germany as a power for evil exterminated for ever from the world, or at any rate prevented from doing harm (applause). With regard to the Sinn Feiners, he would say one word.
The Fenians were respectable, true and honest men, who thought they were doing right (hear, hear), but of all the bodies that ever arose in Ireland at any time or any place, or any hour, the Sinn Feiners were the most miserable, the most cowardly, the most contemptible, the most wretched, mean, and traitorous and treacherous body of men that ever arose to pollute politics or lead people astray. (Applause)
They were men who held Government jobs in Universities, and got English money; they were solicitors, they were coroners, and they were policemen’s sons; they were landlords, and landlords’ agents’ sons, and they were the spawn of all that was ever bad in Irish public life, and if one asked them what they wanted, they could not tell you that. They did not know; they were against one thing only, and that was the Irish part (hear, hear), and they were united on a common platform against that Party whether that Party did this or that.
They were a vile, contemptible, mean, low, selfish lot, good for nothing but themselves, and looking after nothing but their own self interests. They were the spawn of land-grabbers, and bailiffs, and they were on the side of the greatest land-grabber that ever lived – Germany (applause). “And the farmer” continued Mr. O’Malley, “who would be guided by them in any way – even for his own selfish interests – deserves nothing better from me or you (and certainly what I would give him, or both of them), than utter contempt.” (Prolonged applause).
Mr O’Malley then wound up with a final exhortation to the farmers to come forward and save the honour of themselves and Ireland by joining the colours.
[Extract from Connacht Tribune, 12th February 1916]