The 1916 Easter Rising
The following presents a look at the of events of the 1916 Easter rising & why a failed rebellion has such symbolic power for the people of Ireland.
The Easter Rising was a rebellion lasting from April 24th to April 30th 1916. It comprised 1200 men and women from the Irish Volunteers, socialist group Irish Citizen Army & women from Cumman na mBan.
The Irish Volunteers were formed in 1913 in response to the blocking of Home Rule, or self governance, by the Ulster Volunteers. The Irish Citizen Army was created to protect strikers from the police during the Dublin Lockout of 1913.
The First World War split the Volunteers in two. The National Volunteers joined the British war effort with 120,000 men. The much smaller 13,000 Irish Volunteers chose to remain in Ireland & devoted their cause to winning Home Rule.
7 men planned the Rising. They were Eamon Ceannt, James Connolly, Joseph Plunkett, Thomas MacDonagh, Patrick Pearse, Sean McDermott & Tom Clarke. Members of the IRB or Irish Republican Brotherhood. Forerunners of the IRA.
Their plans were kept secret from the wider Volunteers & IRB members.
A huge arms shipment had been arranged with Germany to land in Kerry on Good Friday.
However it was discovered by the British.
The plans were revealed to the wider leadership of Volunteers at the last minute. In defiance, Eoin MacNeill issued a countermanding order to desist. This only delayed the rising from Easter Sunday to the day after.
The rebels took up positions around Dublin. The General Post Office, Bolands Mills, Stephens Green, the Four Courts & Jacobs Factory.
The British deployed over 16,000 troops. Artillery and naval gunboats bombarded the city. The fighting lasted a week with 450 dead and over 2,000 wounded.
The GPO, housing the rebel HQ, fell on Friday 28th. Fighting was heaviest at Mount Street Bridge & North King Street.
There were also risings in Ashbourne, Enniscorthy, Wexford & Galway. 3,000 were arrested with 1,400 imprisoned.
The Making of Rebel Martyrs
Against the overwhelming might of the British Empire they had only small arms, but fought bravely and honourably for a week, risking their lives.
The rising split public opinion. It was condemned by the Irish Parliamentary Party & not widely supported by Dubliners. However, opinions were rapidly changing due to conscription, the growing casualties from the First World War, the continued postponement of Home Rule & the executions of the rebel leaders.
The Inside of the GPO
The execution of the leaders helped to turn the Irish people against the British government and to demand full independence. It was therefore a sacred event.
This resulted in an increase in support for nationalist Sinn Fein. This party, pledged to withdraw from Westminster & set up an Irish Parliament.
Sinn Fein went on to win the general election of 1918, proclaimed an Irish Republic and so started the Irish War of Independence.