The Irish Easter Rebellion 1916 Essay

This essay has a total of 2346 words and 13 pages.

The Irish Easter Rebellion 1916

The 1916 Irish Easter Uprising

Ever since the occupation of Ireland by the English began in 1169, Irish patriots have
fought back against British rule, and the many Irish rebellions and civil wars had always
been defeated. To quash further rebellion, the Act of Union was imposed in 1800, tying
Ireland to the United Kingdom of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Laws discriminating
against Catholics and the handling of the Irish Potato Famine of 1845-50 led to increased
tension and the proposal of introducing Home Rule gained support.


In 1913 there was a general strike of workers in Dublin led by James Connolly of the Irish
Transport and General Workers Union (I.T.G.W.U.). This action was followed by the 1913
Lock-Out during which employers literally locked workers out of their factories. Also in
1913 John Redmond, leader of the Irish Nationalist Party, created the Irish Volunteers to
counter the Ulster Volunteers, an organisation created to fight against Home Rule. His
chief-of-staff was Eoin MacNeill and his commandant was Patrick Pearse.


When World War I began, Irish nationalists flocked to sign up for Britain's war effort in
the hundreds of thousands. They believed they were at last making Ireland one of the small
nations of Europe, and that in showing their good faith in Britain they were ensuring Home
Rule be passed. However, another more extreme tradition of patriotism considered Home Rule
a sell-out. Thomas J. Clarke, who had been previously gaoled after being sent to England
on a dynamiting mission in 1883, immigrated to America and then returned to Ireland in
1907. In his tobacconist's shop in Dublin the Irish Republican Brotherhood (I.R.B.), a
group of patriots who wanted national independence, was being revived. He held a meeting
with, among others, Patrick Pearse, Eoin MacNeill and Sean MacDermott, who had broken away
with a minority of extremist Volunteers when Redmond co-operated with the war effort, and
Connolly who was now the creator and commander of the Irish Citizen Army, a worker's
fighting force designed to defend against police brutality. There they made the decision
to rise in arms against British rule.


Together they created front organisations for propaganda purposes, such as the Neutrality
League and the Wolfe Tone Memorial Committee. The latter organised the funeral of Jeremiah
O'Donovan Rossa, a supporter of the republican political party, Sinn Fein. It is here on
the 15th August 1915 that Patrick Pearse delivered his famous speech:

Life springs from death: and from the graves of patriotic men and women spring living
nations. …they have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves,
Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.


It was a call for a blood sacrifice in order to free Ireland from British rule. In
organising an uprising, the funeral was proof that the Volunteers could organise when
secretly directed by the I.R.B. and on St. Patrick's Day (17th March), Connolly took his
Citizen Army on a tour of key Dublin sites which could be used as strategic strongholds
during an uprising.


However, there were many difficulties in organising and executing such a rebellion and one
thing the rebels needed were weapons. Sir Roger Casement had organised for a shipment of
as many as 200,000 rifles to be smuggled into Ireland on a "neutral" German freighter, the
Aud. But when Casement arrived in Ireland on a German submarine he was arrested
immediately and the freighter was intercepted by the Royal Navy and scuttled itself.
Another attempt was made to gain large quantities of arms and ammunition during the actual
uprising from the arsenal at Phoenix Park known as Magazine Fort. However this was not
very successful and the rebels seized only a few rifles.


Throughout the organisation of the rebellion, Eoin MacNeill, leader of the minority
Volunteers had to be kept in the dark about the I.R.B.'s plans because he believed that
his Irish Volunteers should only rise in arms if a British attempt to disarm them
occurred. A week before Easter when he found out exactly what "manoeuvres" were planned
for Easter Sunday he was appalled, however he changed his mind upon hearing that the
British planned to disarm both the Citizen Army and the Volunteers and that Casement's
shipment of rifles was already on its way. Indeed, Naval Intelligence had managed to
decipher the German naval code and Dublin Castle knew that there were arms on the way to
help an uprising planned for Easter. On the Thursday before Easter they issued an official
order to disarm the rebels and arrest their leaders.





However MacNeill again refused to sanction an uprising upon hearing that Casement had been
arrested and the shipment of rifles lost. He decided to call off the uprising and placed
this advertisement in The Sunday Independent on Easter Saturday:


Owing to the very critical position, all orders given to Irish Volunteers for tomorrow,
Easter Sunday, are hereby rescinded, and no parades, marches, or other movement of Irish
Volunteers will take place. Each individual Volunteer will obey this order strictly in
every particular.


When Dublin Castle heard that the ship contained the rebels arms had been scuttled, they
assumed that no uprising could go ahead and this appeared to be confirmed when they read
the above advertisement in the Sunday Independent. The decision to arrest the leaders was
to go ahead, but no immediate action taken as there could be no immediate rising and as it
was a Bank Holiday the next day.


Confusion resulted amongst the Irish Volunteers after they read MacNeill's advertisement.
Most thought that the "manoeuvres" mentioned were only manoeuvres and nothing more anyway,
so when James Connolly and Patrick Pearse decided to go ahead with the uprising 24 hours
later, less than 1000 altogether showed up and another 800 or so joined over the next few
days.


The Easter Rebellion began at twelve noon on Easter Monday 24th April 1916. Members of the
Irish Citizen Army, Fianna the Youth Organisation, the women's organisation and the
minority Irish Volunteers gathered outside the I.T.G.W.U. at Liberty Hall. They then split
into groups and seized key buildings and landmarks around Dublin's city centre.


Rebels commanded by Edward Daly took Four Courts, headquarters of the legal profession and
able to command access from Marlborough Street and the Royal Barracks; Eamonn Ceannt took
the South Dublin Union workhouse, blocking British access from the Richmond Barracks and
Kingsbridge Station; Michael Mallin and Countess Markiewicz took St. Stephen's Green and
Jacob's Biscuit Factory to command access from the Portobello Barracks; and Eamon de
Valera's group took Boland's Flour Mill which covered access routes that re-inforcements
arriving from England via Kingstown were sure to travel on their way to Dublin. One group
also went to Dublin Castle where they shot the men guarding the gate, and then went on to
capture another lesser building. The Castle was an excellent tactical position occupied by
only 25 British soldiers; the rebels' failure to capture it was their first big mistake.
Leaders of the rebellion, Patrick Pearse, James Connolly, Joseph Plunkett, The O'Reilly,
Thomas Clarke and Sean MacDermott as well as 150 rebels marched down Sackville Street (now
O'Connell Street), captured the General Post Office and made it their headquarters. From
here Pearse read out the Proclamation of the Irish Republic that he had written, and
declared Ireland a free state with the words:


TO THE PEOPLE OF IRELAND: IRISHMEN AND IRISHWOMEN, In the name of God and of the dead
generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us,
summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom.


The British strategy was to create a cordon around the centre of Dublin and then slowly
advance in on the rebels. On Tuesday 25th April the government declared Martial Law
(temporary rule by military authorities) throughout Ireland and 5,000 additional troops
Continues for 7 more pages >>




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