In summer 1914 a war broke out in Europe that would change the world forever. In Ireland, many supported the cause and joined up or travelled to serve in nursing and auxiliary services. Others objected to the war on moral, social or political grounds. By the time the conflict ended in 1918, its impact had been felt through the length and breadth of the country.

World War Ireland is a free exhibition at the National Library of Ireland that focuses on the unique aspects of the Irish WWI experience. Running from November 2014 through to 2018, the exhibition draws on the NLI's collections of letters, diaries, recruiting posters, newspaper reports, cartoons, handbills and leaflets dating from 1914-1918.

With original artefacts, first hand personal accounts and eyewitness testimony, World War Ireland brings visitors dramatically inside the lives of those who experienced WWI.

Please note 'WWI at Home' is a map-based interactive and should be viewed on a desktop or laptop screen. The full content will not display on smaller devices such as tablets or smartphones.

WWI at Home

The impact of World War I was felt across the island of Ireland.

From rural recruitment drives to urban munitions factories, from Red Cross depots to German POW camps, the effects and repercussions of the war extended throughout the country.

Drawing on archive images, photographs and newspaper cuttings from the NLI collections, this interactive presents some examples of how the war touched the different provinces and counties of Ireland.

Click on the image to launch 'WWI at Home'.


Video: 1914 - Ireland on the Brink of War

The seeming inevitability of a European war and the horrific loss of life that occurred during its early months were experienced by all participating nations, including Ireland.

However, in the months and weeks preceding the declaration of war on 4th August 1914, the more immediate threat of conflict was closer to home, as Ireland was brought to the brink of civil war over the issue of Home Rule.

In this short film, several key commentators consider the specifically Irish context to the outbreak of war.

Video: 1915 - The War Continues

As the war extended into 1915, Irish losses increased dramatically in the Gallipoli campaign. Elsewhere, civilians become a target with the sinking of the Lusitania and, on the Western Front, poison gas was used for the first time.

In this year's short film expert commentators consider the Irish experience of these events both on the front lines and at home.

Video: 1916 – The War at Home and Abroad

The third year of the war saw huge engagements and heavy losses at the Somme, Verdun and Jutland, as both sides sought to strike a decisive blow and end the conflict.

In Ireland, the majority was supportive of the war effort, with many Irish divisions placed across Europe. Yet a small but significant minority were interested in a struggle closer to home as was proven on Monday, 24 April, when the Easter Rising began.

In this short film, select commentators discuss Ireland's divide, strongly intensified by the war, the engagements in Europe, and the implications both would have for Ireland's future.

Video: 1917 - The War Grinds On

In the fourth year of the war, America entered the conflict and Russia withdrew.

On the front lines, the 16th (Irish) Division and 36th (Ulster) Division fought side-by-side at the Battle of Messines and the Third Battle of Ypres. Meanwhile, back home, politics became more polarised as support for Home Rule decreased and Sinn Fein's popularity grew.

In this short film, expert commentators discuss some of the key Irish and international events of 1917.

Audio: Words and Music - The Sounds of War

Music, poetry and original letters and diaries evoke the hopes, sorrows and loss felt by so many over the years of war. Click on the links below to listen to letters and poems recorded for the World War Ireland exhibition.

NLI would like to thank Niall Ó hAnnagáin, Barry Pierce, and Cian Siggins (all previous winners of the annual poetry speaking competition Poetry Aloud) for their participation in this recording. We are also very pleased to have worked in partnership with the British Embassy in Ireland, who have funded this module of the exhibition.


  • Extract from a letter by Norman Leslie, writing from the Front to his home in Co Monaghan, on 14 October 1914
    • Read by Niall Ó hAnnagáin
  • Letter received by Mrs Senta McDonnell concerning her husband John's death on 29 September 1918,
    less than two months before the war ended
    • Read by Barry Pierce
  • Letter from Private Barry Mulligan to Charles Kean O'Hara about O'Hara's recruiting work
    • Read by Cian Siggins


  • It's a Far, Far Cry by Patrick MacGill
    • Read by Niall Ó hAnnagáin
  • An Irish Airman Foresees his Death by WB Yeats
    • Read by Barry Pierce
  • To My Daughter Betty, The Gift of God by Tom Kettle
    • Read by Cian Siggins


The wide and varied collections of the NLI include many posters, photographs, press advertisements, cartoons and other items that depict different aspects of the Irish experience of the war.

Click on an image to launch a selection of captioned images covering The Road to War, A Modern War or WWI on Irish Shores.

The Road to War

A Modern War

WWI on Irish Shores


World War I altered the course of Irish history. By the time the conflict was over, Ireland's political, economic and social landscape had changed forever.

Visit the exhibition at the National Library of Ireland, 2/3 Kildare Street, to view original artefacts, striking and informative graphic panels, slideshows, film and interactive content. The exhibition also includes a special 'focus-area' that will be refreshed on an annual basis and used to allow in-depth focus on specific events or themes.

View information on where to find us and our opening hours here. Exhibition content and learning resources can be downloaded from the links below. If you're eager for more, there's something for everyone in our programme of events and activities. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter or see the National Library website for full details.