The Curragh Incident of 20 March 1914, also known as the Curragh Mutiny, occurred in the Curragh, County Kildare. The Curragh Camp was then the main base for the British Army in Ireland.
In the spring of 1912, the Liberal coalition British government of H. H. Asquith had introduced the Third Home Rule Bill for Ireland, which proposed the creation of an autonomous Irish Parliament in Dublin. A large section of Unionists had objected to inclusion to potential rule by the proposed Dublin Parliament and had founded the Ulster Volunteers paramilitary group in 1912 to fight if necessary against the British government and/or against a future Irish Home Rule government proposed by the Bill.
To deal with the threat of violence from the Ulster Volunteers should the Home Rule Bill be passed in the British Parliament, the commander of the Curragh base, Sir Arthur Paget, was ordered by the War Office in London in March 1914 to start preparations to move troops to Ulster to be able to deal with any violence that might break out there. Paget misinterpreted his orders for precautionary deployments as an immediate order to march against Ulster.
Acting on his own initiative, he offered the officers under his command the choice of resignation rather than fighting against the Ulster Volunteers. Out of the 70 British Army Officers based in the Curragh Camp, many of them Irish unionists, 57 accepted Paget's offer to resign their commissions in the British Army, or to accept being dismissed from it, rather than enforce the Home Rule Act 1914 in Ulster. The men led by Brigadier-General Hubert Gough were not technically guilty of mutiny, as they had not yet refused to carry out a direct order.
Paget then sent a telegram to the war Office in London:
OFFICER COMMANDING 5TH LANCERS STATES THAT ALL OFFICERS, EXCEPT TWO AND ONE DOUBTFUL, ARE RESIGNING THEIR COMMISSIONS TODAY. I MUCH FEAR SAME CONDITIONS IN THE 16TH LANCERS. FEAR MEN WILL REFUSE TO MOVE. REGRET TO REPORT BRIGADIER-GENERAL GOUGH AND FIFTY-SEVEN OFFICERS 3RD CAVALRY BRIGADE PREFER TO ACCEPT DISMISSAL IF ORDERED NORTH.
Asquith's Liberal government backed down, claiming an "honest misunderstanding," and the men were reinstated. The War Office in London declared that the army would not be used to enforce the Home Rule Act, but the men who issued this statement were later forced to resign.
About a month later, on 24 April the northern Irish Ulster Volunteers covertly landed about 20,000 rifles at night in the "Larne gun-running" incident, without any of those involved being discovered or arrested.
The event contributed to unionist confidence and the growing Irish separatist movement, convincing nationalists that they could not expect support from the British army in Ireland. In turn, this naturally increased nationalist support for its paramilitary force, the Irish Volunteers, realising that the proposed Home Rule Act could not be enforced by the British government. The growing fear of civil war in Ireland led on to the government considering some form of partition of Ireland in July 1914 by an amending Bill, and further discussions at the Buckingham Palace Conference, but both it and the main Act were suspended soon after the start of the First World War in August.