Michael Collins (pictured in 1919), one of only two Sinn Féin leaders to escape arrest.
May 17 1918, Dublin–The British government was determined to enact conscription in Ireland, and newly-installed Lord Lieutenant French saw Sinn Féin as the major obstacle preventing this–despite the broad opposition to conscription from every element of Irish society and political life. On the night of May 17, on the pretext that they were plotting with the Germans to stage a rebellion in Ireland, French had over 150 Sinn Féin leaders arrested. Although the Germans certainly had an interest in Irish intrigues, especially in the leadup to the Easter Rebellion, when they sent arms (which were interecepted) and Roger Casement (who was captured and executed), the evidence for any grand “German Plot” was shaky at best. Some have theorized that the attempt to tie Sinn Féin to Germany was an attempt to turn American public opinion against the Irish.
Only two Sinn Féin leaders managed to escape the arrests–Michael Collins and Cathal Brugha, who were tipped off by a source inside Dublin Castle. With the remainder of the leadership detained without trial for the rest of the war, Collins and Brugha rose to unexpected prominence.
Today in 1917: Marshal Putnik Dies