“I am a Catholic, socialist and an Irishman, and hold war to be organised slaughter,” declared Patrick O’Daly in his application for exemption from military service in 1916. O’Daly was one of little more than 100 identifiable Catholic Conscientious Objectors (COs). Why so few?
The Military Service Act, enforcing compulsory military service, had come into effect in March 1916. Those faced with conscription into the army could apply for exemption from military service at local military service tribunals and then appeal against contested decisions at county tribunals. There were several grounds for being excused from service, including ill-health and serious financial hardship, as well as conscientious objection.