Irish Citizen Army Uniforms and Equipment 1916

Brief History of the Irish Citizens Army

An article by Padraig O Ruairc

The army rose out of the great strike of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union in 1913, known as the Lockout of 1913. The dispute was over the recognition of this labour union founded by James Larkin. It began when William Martin Murphy, an industrialist, locked out some trade unionists on August 19, 1913. In response, Larkin called an all out strike on Murphy’s Dublin United Tramway Company. Other companies, encouraged by Murphy, sacked ITGWU members in an effort to break the union. The conflict eventually escalated to involve 400 employers and 25,000 workers.This strike caused most of Dublin to come to an economic standstill and was marked by vicious rioting between the strikers and the Dublin Metropolitan Police, particularly at a rally on O’Connell street on August 31, in which two men were beaten to death and about 500 more injured. Another striker was later shot dead by a strike-breaker. The violence at union rallies during the strike prompted Larkin to call for a worker’s militia to be formed to protect themselves against the police. The Citizen army for the duration of the lockout was armed with hurling sticks and bats in order to protect worker’s demonstration from the police. Jack White, a former British Army Captain, volunteered to train this army and offered 50 pounds towards the cost of shoes to workers so they could train. In addition to its role as a self defence organisation, the army, which was drilled in Croydon Park in Fairview by White, provided a diversion for workers unemployed and idle during the dispute. After a six-month standoff, the workers returned to work hungry and defeated in January 1914. The original purpose of the ICA was over, but it would soon be totally transformed.

The Irish Citizen Army was totally reorganised in 1914. In March of that year, a demonstration of the Citizen Army was attacked by the police and Jack White, its commander, was arrested. Sean O’Casey then suggested that the ICA needed a more formal organisation. O’Casey wrote a constitution stating the Army’s principles as follows: the ownership of Ireland, moral and material, is vested of right in the people of Ireland and to “sink all difference of birth property and creed under the common name of Irish people”.

On Larkin’s insistence, all members were also required to be members of a trade union, if eligible. In mid 1914, James Larkin left Ireland for America in October 1914, leaving the Citizen Army under the command of James Connolly. Whereas during the Lockout, the ICA had been a workers’ self defence militia, Connolly conceived of it as a revolutionary organisation – dedicated to the creation of an Irish socialist republic “The Workers Republic”. He had served in the British army in his youth and knew something about military tactics and discipline. Other active members in the early days included  Countess Markievicz ,Sean O’Casey, , Francis Sheehy-Skeffington. Sheehy-Skeffington and O’Casey left the ICA when it became apparent that Connolly was moving towards the radical nationalist group, the Irish Republican Brotherhood.

James Connolly was a convinced Marxist socialist and Irish Republican and believed that achieving political change through physical force, in the tradition of the Fenians, was legitimate.

Lenin would later describe the Citizen Army as being the first red army in Europe. This organisation was one of the first to offer equal membership to both men and women and trained them both in the use of weapons. The army’s headquarters was the ITGWU union building, Liberty Hall and they were almost entirely Dublin based. However, Connolly also set up branches in Tralee and Killarney in county Kerry. In October 1915, armed ICA pickets patrolled a strike by dockers at Dublin port. Attempts were made to set up Branches of the ICA in Limerick but were not successfull. (However in the Years 1919 and 1920 the remnants of The Citizen Army did organise small groups in Waterford, Cork and Monoghan)

Appalled by the participation of Irishmen in the First World War, which he regarded as an imperialist, capitalist conflict, Connolly began openly calling for insurrection in his newspaper, the Irish Worker. When this was banned, he opened another the Worker’s Republic. The British authorities tolerated the open drilling and bearing of arms by the ICA, thinking that to clamp down on the organisation would provoke further unrest. A small group of Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) conspirators within the Irish Volunteers movement were also planning a rising. Worried that Connolly would embark on premature military action with the ICA, Connolly was approached and inducted into the IRB’s Supreme Council to co-ordinate their preparations for the armed rebellion known as the Easter Rising.

The ICA never numbered more than 250 to 300 men and women nation wide. On Monday April 24, 1916, 220 of them (including 28 women) took part in the Easter Rising, alongside a much larger body of the Irish Volunteers. They helped occupy the General Post Office on O’Connell Street (then Sackville Street), Dublin’s main thoroughfare. Mallin, Connolly’s second in command, along with Markievizc and an ICA company, occupied St Stephen’s Green. Another company under Sean Connolly took over City Hall and attacked Dublin Castle. Finally, a detachment occupied Harcourt Street railway station. ICA men were the first rebel causalties of Easter Week, two of them being killed in an abortive attack on Dublin Castle. Sean Connolly, an ICA officer, was the first rebel fatality. A total of eleven Citizen Army men were killed in action in the rising, five in the City Hall/Dublin castle area, five in Stephen’s Green and one in the GPO.

Connolly was made commander of the rebel forces in Dublin during the Rising and issued orders to surrender after a week. He and Mallin were executed by British army firing squad some weeks later. The surviving ICA members were interned in Frongoch in Wales until 1919.

Many of them later joined the new Irish Republican Army (IRA) from 1917 on, but the Citizen Army remained in existence until the 1930s. According to some reports ICA units were involved in various IRA operations during the Irish War of Independence. However the ICA always maintained its Independence never fully coming under IRA control for example ICA members stationed at Liberty Hall were not informed about or asked to take part in the burning of the Customs House in May 1921 and were forced to watch the ensuing drama from the steps and windows of Liberty Hall directly across the road. During the fighting in Dublin that began the Irish Civil War in June 1922, some elements of the ICA (which by this time had about 140 members) were involved in the Anti-Treaty IRA occupation and defence of the Four Courts while others occupied Liberty Hall, the Trade Union headquarters.

In the 1920s and 1930s, the ICA was kept alive by veterans such as Seamus MacGowan, Dick McCormick and Frank Purcell, though perhaps only as an old comrades association by veterans of 1916.

Uniformed Citizen Army men provided a guard of honour at Constance Markievicz’s funeral in 1927.

In 1934, Peadar O’Donnell and other left wing republicans left the IRA and founded the Republican Congress. For a brief time, they revived the ICA as a paramilitary force, intended to be an armed wing for their new movement. According to Brian Hanley’s history of the IRA, the revived Citizen Army had 300 or so members around the country in 1935. However, the Congress itself split in 1935 and collapsed shortly afterwards. Most of the ICA members joined the Irish Labour Party. The ICA’s last public appearance was to accompany the funeral procession of union leader James Larkin in Dublin in 1947.


Uniform of The Irish Citizen Army

Taken from R.M. Foxs Book – The Irish Citizen Army Page 68

“Until the uniforms came (in 1914), the rank and file wore Irish linen armlets of a light blue colour with the letters ICA on them, while the officers wore bands of crimson. When a consignment of belts, havoursacks and bayonets arrived the men were soon busy cleaning, polishing and oiling with enthousiasm. Big slough hats conpleted the turn out. … When the uniforms came the enthousiasm was greater than ever. They were of a darker green than those worn by the Irish Volunteers, and it became the custom among the Transport Union members to fasten up one side of the big slouch hats with the red hand badge of the Union.”

The mens uniform was of a good quality serge coloured a very dark grenn – almost exactly the same colour as the R.I.C. bottle green. The uniform had a high collar and had two brest pockets and two large box pockets. The buttons used were the “football” type compressed leather buttons in both dark and light brown. (These buttons were also standard issue on Cumann Na M-Bann uniforms and were used on Irish Volunteer and later IRA uniforms becoming more common post 1916 as the official brass “IV” buttons became harder to get. Theres an illustration below – Im alsp reproducing them if anyone needs any) The slouch hat was of the same very dark green colour. It was similar in style to the hats worn by the ANZAC’s in the British Forces and the Boer “Cronje” hat. The Cap badge of the Irish Citizens army was the Irish Transport And General Workers Union badge for 1913 The red hand of Ulster which sometimes had the letters ITGWU on it in raised detail. Ordinary ranks sometimes wore a shoulder title in block letters reading ICA.

The ICA belt was of the same pattern as the RIC belt with the Brass “Snake S” Bely Buckle. Those carrying rifles wore black bandoliers and all members carried a white linnen ammunition and kit bag. The trousers were the same dark green colour and matierial, but appart from one picture of Marcivictz wearing Puttees I have never seen a photo of any other member of the ICA wearing putees or leather leggings.

The womens uniform was of a similar dark green colour but was of a much coarser heavy tweed matierial. It had an open V – neck style collar. The following is a reference to it from Helena Maloneys Bureau of Military History statement. Countess Marcivictz was the most photographed female member of the ICA however she is usually pictured wearing a mans uniform – as explained below. Which gave the idea that ICA men and women both wore the same uniform.

Helena Maloney -“In his book Sean O Faoilain attributed vanity to Madame Marcivictz as the motive of her nationalist and military activitys, and stressed her fondness for uniforms. The truth was she had never bought a uniform – like many other members of the Citizen army except a Boy Scouts shirt which then cost 3/6 d, and a boy scouts hat. Her Citizen Army dress up to the week before the Rising consisted of a plain tweed costume with a sam browne belt and black turned up hat, similar to the men’s with a small bunch of cocks feathers. She went out to the rebellion in the uniform coat of Michael Mallin, who had got a new uniform. And he was so slim his coat fitted her perfectly.”

Women wore the same bandoliers and white kit bags as the men but sometimes wore sam browne belts rather than the “Snake S” buckle belts. Most women wore a skirt in the same colour but some such as marcivictz wore trousers underneath of just simply trousers. (Note women wearing trousers in 1910;s Ireland was exceptionaly unusual and broke entirely with accepted ideas of dress style and morality.


Officers Uniform

ICA officers essentialy wore the same uniforms as the ordinary member. Except that instead of the Block letter ICA shoulder title they wore a scrolled of italic pair of badges with the letters ICA on their collars as illustrated on the picture of Marcivictz below.The full photograph (Not Illustrated) of Marcivictz wearing Mallins old uniform shows that it had raised patches in a similar shape to I.V and British army officers uniforms but there were not outlined with lace like the I.V. and British uniforms. The ICA later adopted diamond shaped brass rank markings worn in pairs on the epaluttes. A post 1917 ICA uniform on display on the Ulster Somme Heritage centre Newton Ards has used Irish Volunteer brass “Trefoil” rank markings on the epaluttes in sunstitution for the official diamond shaped rank markings which were presumable not available. James Connolly had a uniform made for himself just before the Easter Rising and it is described in Ina Connolly Herons book “Portrait of a Rebel Father”

Citizen Army Boy Scouts

As well as founding Na Fianna Eireann countess Marcivictz also ran the ICA Boy Scouts Their uniform was similar to the Fianna except that they had red facings and wore blue neckerchiefs or scarves. The Irish National Guard a small breakaway group from trhe Fianna again with a slightly different uniform were also closely allied to the ICA Boy Scouts. Clan Na Gael Girl Scouts were founded after some branches of Na Fianna Eireann – “The Irish National Boy Scouts” refused to admit girls as members they also worked closely with the ICA. Below is a reference to the ICA Boy Scouts and their Uniform in Cork in 1920 from James Alan Busby’s Bureau of Military History Statement No 1628.

“Late in 1918 or perhaps early in 1919 , a Fianna representative from Dublin came to Cork and created a split in our ranks. A rival group known as the Citizen Army Boy Scouts was started in Cork. At the same time we had a girls contingent attached to the Fianna known as the Clan Na Gael Girl Guides. The Misses Wallace ofSt. Augustine Street Cork, were amongst the leaders of the latter group. There was no difference in policy between the Fianna and the Citizen Army scouts. There was however a small distinction in the uniform, we wore a saffrom scarf while they wore a blue scarf. They had as far as I remember about forty boys at most in the organisation, but to the best of my belief it petered out about 1920.”

Weapons and Armament

Like the Irish Volunteers, the ICA used a motley variety of weapons and were glad of anything they could get their hands on. Many of their cartridges and bombs/grenades were manufactured by members of the ICA in the basement of Liberty Hall. In comparison to the Irish Volunteers the ICA being a small force were far better uniformed arm armed. Photos {see below) of the army in training at Croydon Park Dublin show up to 70 men all armed with rifles. The most common rifle used was a german bolt action mauser. Contarty to many reports the ICA did not take part in the Howth Gunrunning of 1914 but some ICA members managed to steal “Howth Mausers” hidden by the Volunteers when they were confronted by the Kings Own Scottish Borders and RIC on their way back into the city that evening. Members of the ITGWU worked on the docks in Dublin and were later able to smuggle in quantities of mauser rifles for the ICA before 1916. Lee Enfield rifles were initaly scarce in the ICA up to 1916 but in the War of Independence they managed to find a source in a sympathetic British soldier who managed to smuggle out Lee Enfields from Portobello Barracks. Officers most commonly carried C96 Broom Handle mauser pistols and Countess Marcivictz is also photographes with a Webly ans Scot Long barrelled .45 revolver, though she used a mauser pistol in the rising itself. Officers would have used a variety of revolvers including colts and automatic pistols such as luger 9mm parabellums smuggled in from Germany.

Unlike Cumann Na m-Bann whose duties were usualy restricted to more traditional sexist roles of cooking, first aid and despatch carrying the women of the ICA carried weapons and were of equal rank with the men. Margret Skinnider an ICA member from Scotland and Countess Marcivictz both fought in the front line with rifle and revolver.


the Citizen Army carried a “Plough And The Stars” of “Starry Plough” flag It was a bluey-green field with an image of a plough in yellow, with a sword as a ploughshare that had the big dipper/ ursa major constellation of seven eight pointed silver stars imposed on it. The plainer starry plough of a plain blue field with seven five pointed stars still used by the Irish left was not used by the ICA until it was reformed by the Republican Congress in the 1930’s.

The origional Starry Plough was flown from the imperial hotel in O Connell St. during the Rising. On St. Patricks day 1916 the ICA hoisted a plain green flag with a golden or yellow harp over liberty hall. The remnants of this are on display in Collins Barracks. A scroll was also unveiled across the front of Liberty Hall in 1914 after the outbreak of WW1 which read “We serve neither King nor Kaiser but Ireland!”

Final Note

Unlike the Irish Volunteers who were mostly Catholic (with notable exceptions Bulmer Hobson etc…) a fairly large section of the ICA were of minority religions. Marcivictz was Protestant as were Jack White and Dr. kathleen Lynne. Jack White later declared himself an Atheist and embraced Anarchisim during the Spanish Civil war. The first casulty of the 1916 rising was Abraham Weeks, attached to the G.P.O. Garrison (See Manus O Riordan – James Connolly, Liberty Hall and the 1916 Rising) Weeks was an English Jew and member of the International Workers of the World Union who came to Dublin from London in 1916 to avoid conscription to the British Army and to join the ICA.


Citizen Army Group Firing

The photos aren’t the greatest quality but you can click on them to enlarge. This photo shows two ordinary ICA members armed with rifles the one closer to the camera has the more typical mauser rifle. The captain kneeling and pointing is armed with a C96 broom handle mauser and is the group leader (female) closest to the camera. Note also she has a feathered hat similar to marcivictz and wears the ‘scrolled’ ICA letters on her collar not the Block ICA letters on the epaulettes worn by the others. She also has the officers Slade wallace pattern belt and is the only one wearing putees.

Citizen Army Captain firing C96 Broomhandle Mauser Pistol

This is a Citizen Army Captain or NCO firing a Broom handled mauser. The weapons wooden holster could be fixed to the guns handle and used as a stock transforming the weapon into a carabine. If you enlarge the inage you can clearly see the red hand ITGWU badge used to pin up the hat and the block letter ICA shoulder title

Two Members of ICA

The Captain on the left had his mauser in the wooden holster, and though he does not have the brass diamond shaped rank marking fixed to his epaluttes, the fact that his “Snake S” buckle type strap in the style of a sam browne and that he has a pistol rather than a rifle shows he is of senior rank. The Ordinary member wears the black bandolier and his belt does not have a cross strap. the white linen ammunition and kit bags are worn on opposite sides because of the ICA Captains cross strap and mauser holster – more normaly it would be worn in the fashion of the ordinary ICA member. These are old RUC uniforms that have been bought and doctored for the purpose at E 4o for tunic and trousers – not a small fortune! in re-enactment terms

Captain Jack White and Irish Citizen Army at Croydon House Dublin

You can see how well armed and uniformed the ICA realy were from this. The officer on the right closest to the camera is captain Jack White a vetern of the Boer war with the British army. The sword he is carrying is a British Army officers sword

Citizen Army on Roof of Liberty Hall

The men in uniforms are armed with mauser rifles – the most common weapon in the ICA. The uniformed man in the centre has the red hand badge clearly visible pinning up the side of his cap. The man standing behind with the revolver in civilian clothes is also a member of the force. Again if E4o is beyond your budget for a uniform civilian clothes courdruoy, tweed or even an old suit from oxfam with the addition of a made up ICA blue or red armband is cheaper still and perfectly accurate.

Origional Citizen Army Button

Taken from a womens ICA uniform in a private collection, note the dark green rough tweed matierial rather than the serge used in the mens tunics. The camera flash had brightened the colour but trust me its dark green. Im reproducing these buttons if anyone needs them other wise modern leather buttons are acceptable and cost little.

Countess Marcivictz in Officers Uniform

Note she is wearing an officers slade wallace belt, and if the resolution is good you can see the officers collar badges. This was Malins old uniform mentioned above. Photo taken about one week before the Rising.

Countess Marcivictz in ICA Boy Scouts Uniform

This photo was taken circa 1917 -1918 note how imprisionment and hungerstrike have worn on the countesses face, the wrinkles, blackened and broken teath and grey hair were all touched up when the photo was used to promote her for election. Compare to the above photo. Shows what these people realy went through for our freedoms? All the more reason why if we are going to re-enact the period we should do their memory justice. Any way she is wearing the ICA Boy Scouts uniform – quite similar in design to the Fianna Eireann one.

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  1. Carax November 12, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    Though it’s a lovely idea, this line is of course incorrect:

    “The first casulty of the 1916 rising was Abraham Weeks, attached to the G.P.O. Garrison (See Manus O Riordan – James Connolly, Liberty Hall and the 1916 Rising) Weeks was an English Jew and member of the International Workers of the World Union who came to Dublin from London in 1916 to avoid conscription to the British Army and to join the ICA.”

    Sean Connolly (ICA) was the first insurgent casualty of the 1916 rising.

    Arthur Wicks, was not Jewish but was a wobblie and London based before he moved to Dublin. He was a supporter of the ICA and was fatally wounded on Friday 24 April 1916 as the last of the volunteers were evacuating the GPO.

  2. Brian Flanagan December 30, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    I live in the U.S. and would like to to display a reproduction ICA uniform. Can you let me know where I would obtain surplus RUC uniforms? Are these uniforms surplus B Special uniforms from the 1960’s or, are they open-necked constable uniforms which were altered?

    Also, how would I obtain the brown leather reproduction uniform buttons from you?

  3. Diarmuid Breatnach April 5, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    Hi, thanks for this.
    Where is the quote by Lenin about the ICA being the “first red army in Europe” from, please?

  4. dominic corr April 24, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    Could you let me know the price of the reproduction ICA uniforms please ?

  5. dominic corr April 25, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    Are there any reproduced Irish Citizen Army uniforms available to buy?

  6. Roasted Snow August 5, 2012 at 11:57 pm

    Yes, I’ve not seen the Lenin quote. Is there a reference?

  7. David Cooper February 28, 2013 at 10:18 am


    My Great gt uncle John Dutton Cooper was a member of the ICA and had recieved medals for the 1916 uprising & the war of independance, It is recorded as such but cannot find where or who has those medals can they be replaces even as miniature.

  8. Carter McNeese July 30, 2013 at 6:28 am

    Just wanted to clear up that the IWW is the Industrial Workers of the World, not “International.”

    Common mistake, happens all the time.

    Can anyone help provide more documentation that AW (whatever his name was) was a card carrying member of the IWW at the time of his death.

    Connolly was involved in the founding of the IWW, and I would like to prove other IWW involvement in the Rising and the struggle for Irish Independence.

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