The Easter Rising in Ireland, 1916

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The Easter Rising in Ireland, 1916

1. Background to the Rising

		The Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB)


		The Manchester Martyrs

		Clan na Gael

Irish Volunteers

The Gaelic League and the G.A.A.

The Great War 1914-18

Roger Casement

Plans for the rising

2. The insurrection

		The Proclamation of Independence

3. Effects of the rebellion



One of the main and lasting effects of the Great Famine of 

1845-47 was emigration. The "Coffin Ships" carried tens of 

thousands of the poorest Irish people who fled Ireland to avoid

 starvation. They created a new Irish nation within America 

whilst remembering the injustice of the English occupation of 

their homeland as well as harboring a deeply felt hatred of 

landlords and evictions.

A Clann na Gael source estimated that there were over one and one

 half million people of Irish birth in America towards the end of

 the nineteenth century. These people supported the republican 

cause by giving money, weapons and, significantly, a propaganda 

machine which has continued to this day.

The Irish Republican Brotherhood was formed in a Dublin 

timber-yard on Saint Patricks Day in 1858. James Stephans was

 assisted by Thomas Clarke Luby, James Denieefe, Garret O 

Shaugheynessy and Peter Langan.

Joe Denieefe brought financial support back from America. He had 

left Ireland after the Ballingarry defeat in 1848. James 

Stephens, Michael Doheny and the John O'Mahony fought in 

Ballingarry in 1848. Stephens was injured but still manage to 

escape to Paris where he familiarised himself with the 

revolutionary tactics of that country. He came back to Ireland to

 try to establish an underground organisation to remove the 

English from Ireland.

Denieefe and Luby traveled the country extensively and organised

 military groups called "circles". They formed oathbound secret 

societies of loyal patriots. Popular opinion did not support the 

revolutionary ideals of the IRB nor did the Church who were 

strongly opposed. The mainstream support came from the poorer 

classes who, despite their poverty, were often highly idealistic.

At the time of the 1867 rising the membership of the IRB was 

estimated at over 80,000.


Informers such as Corydon and Magle did untold damage to the IRB

 by betraying their oath and giving information to the English.

The Fenian movement split in America in 1865. John O'Mahony took

 over from the Stephans. O?Mahony was later himself to be deposed when his hesitation in calling an insurrection 

dissatisfied the soldiers he commanded (many of which were 

veterans of the American Civil War). Colonel Thomas J. Kelly, was

 appointed Chief of Staff of the IRB in 1867 and departed for 


A rising was planned for February 1867. Chester Castle in England

 was to be attacked and simultaneous raids in Ireland were to be 

carried out. The English knew in advance however as the informer,

 Corydon, kept them informed.

The news had not filtered through to the Fenians in Ireland and

 sporadic battles took place in Kerry and Dublin.


The IRB was reorganised in Manchester in July of 1867 and a supreme council elected. Colonel Kelly and Jim Deasy were

captured by the English and then rescued by the Fenians in a 

daring raid in which a police officer was killed. Allen, Larkin and O'Brien were hanged for their complicity in the events and they became known as "The Manchester Martyrs".

These mass funerals and events with the Land League focused the minds of the popular masses on the injustice of English rule in Ireland.


The IRB delegates in Manchester broke away from the feuding factions of Fenianism in America and supported Clan na Gael who were founded there in June of 1867. The objectives of Clann na Gael was to secure an independent Ireland and to assist the IRB in achieving this aim. John Devoy was the mainstay behind the Clan.

Devoy became involved in the ?New Departure? and assisted Davitt and Parnell in their fight against the landlords. Independence remained his main aim however as he felt that the Land League was not militant enough to remove the landlords.

Devoy, assisted by Doctor Pat McCartan, founded a newspaper, 

"The Gaelic American".

Doctor Pat McCartan transferred from Clan na Gael to the newly formed "Dungannon Clubs", a separatist organisation which was denounced by the Church.

Tom Clarke became a member of the Supreme Council of the IRB in 1909 and helped form the revolutionary paper ?Irish Freedom?. He became the link with Clan na Gael in America.

In 1912 the IRB sent Sean MacDiarmada as a delegate to the Clan convention and he succeeded in securing the enormous sum of $20,000 for the IRB at home.


In November 1913 the Irish Volunteers were formed in Dublin and 4,000 enrolled on that first night. In 1914 Padraig Pearse went to America to raise funds to save his Gaelic school, St. Enda's. This was achieved and Pearse turned his attention to revolutionary matters.

On his return from America he sought 1,000 rifles from McGarrity. He as assisted by Sean Mac Diarmada, Eamonn Ceannt and Sean Fitzgibbon. Pearse was convinced that the revolutionary force in Ireland had never been better organised or equipped. His speech in 1914 reflected this:-

"It is my matured conviction that, given arms, the Volunteers who have adhered to us as against Redmond may be depended upon to act

vigorously, courageously, promptly, and unitedly if the opportunity comes. We are at the moment in an immensely stronger position than ever before. The whole body of Volunteers that has supported our stand against recruiting may be looked upon as a separatist body. In other words, the separatist organisation has been multiplied by a hundred.

In Dublin, we have some 2,500 admirably disciplined, drilled, intelligent, and partly armed men. Nationalist Ireland has never before had such an asset. Our main strength is in Dublin, but large minorities support us everywhere, especially in the towns and in the extreme South and West. We expect to have 150 companies, representing 10,000 to 15,000 men, represented by delegates at next Sunday's Convention.

This small, compact, perfectly disciplined, determined separatist force is infinitely more valuable than the unwieldy, loosely-held together mixum-gatherum force we had before the split. The Volunteers we have with us now may be relied upon to the death, and we are daily perfecting their fighting effectiveness and mobilisation power. It seems a big thing to say, but I do honestly believe that, with arms for these men, we shall be ready

to act with tremendous effect if the war brings us the moment.

The spirit of our Dublin men is wonderful. They would rise tomorrow if we gave the word. A meeting of Dublin officers the other night was as exhilarating as a draught of wine.

We gain daily in the country as Redmond's treachery or imbecility

becomes more manifest. The recruiting campaign has failed utterly, and already he is a discredited politician."


The IRB were influential in many cultural and national organisations. Most of the leaders like Pearse, Plunket and McDonagh were fluent Irish speakers and were members of the Gaelic League. The Gaelic Athletic Association (the GAA) was

formed by Cusack in November 1884.


At the outbreak of the first world war, Redmond urged the Irish Volunteers to join in the fight against the oppressors of small nations (Germany). 170,000 of the Volunteers supported Redmond whilst 11,000 supported Pearse.

Tom Clarke urged the Supreme Council of the IRB that a rising must happen before the end of the war, especially as the Irish Home Rule bill had been suspended at the outbreak of the war. Pearse, Plunket and Ceannt drafted the first military plans.


Prior to the rising and thanks to Hobson, Casement and Childers, guns were landed at Howth and Wicklow. Casement went to Germany where he published the Irish cause in German newspapers. His efforts to secure weapons were dealt a severe blow when he and the weapons they were attempting to smuggle into the country were captured on Banna Strand.

Casement, an English subject, was eventually convicted of treason and hanged.


Thomas Clarke was the main instigator of the rising, supported by Pearse, Se?n

Mac Diarmada, Eamonn Ceant and Se?n T. O Ceallaigh who went to America for

further assistance. Thomas McDonagh, Joseph Plunket and James Connolly. were

later brought on to the Supreme Council.

During all this activity Eoin McNeill was unaware of the secret body that was

organising the rising. Few penetrated the IRB as they prepared for the rising.

James Connolly used his paper ?The Workers' Republic? to call for an armed revolt.

He used the Citizens Army to protect the paper.

The Irish Volunteers were holding recruiting meetings throughout Ireland and

training enthusiastically. They awaited the signal to act as the rising had been set

for Easter Saturday, 22nd of April, 1916.

Setbacks to the plan included the capture of Casement and the weapons, the

capture of Austin Stack, commandant of the Kerry Brigade and the discovery of

the plans for an uprising following a raid on German officials in New York.

The Supreme Council decided unanimously decided to proceed with the uprising

despite the fact that they knew it had little chance of success. It was decided to

strike on Easter Monday. In spite of the order from McNeill not to revolt, over

2,000 soldiers made a strike for freedom.


On Easter Monday, 24th April, 1916 the GPO was occupied by the revolutionary

forces. Pearse read the Proclamation of the Republic to a bemused gathering:






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.

Having organised and trained her manhood through her secret revolutionary

organisation, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and through her open military

organisations, the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army, having patiently

perfected her discipline, having resolutely waited for the right moment to reveal

itself, she now seizes that moment, and, supported by her exiled children in

America and by gallant allies in Europe, but relying in the first on her own

strength, she strikes in full confidence of victory.

We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to

the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The

long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not

extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction

of the Irish people. In every generation the Irish people have asserted their right

to national freedom and sovereignty; six times during the last three hundred

years they have asserted it to arms. Standing on that fundamental right and

again asserting it in arms in the face of the world, we hereby proclaim the Irish

Republic as a Sovereign Independent State, and we pledge our lives and the lives

of our comrades-in-arms to the cause of its freedom, of its welfare, and of its

exaltation among the nations.

The Irish Republic is entitled to, and hereby claims, the allegiance of every

Irishman and Irishwoman. The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, 

equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to

pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and all of its parts,

cherishing all of the children of the nation equally and oblivious of the differences

carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority from the

majority in the past.

Until our arms have brought the opportune moment for the establishment of a

permanent National, representative of the whole people of Ireland and elected by

the suffrages of all her men and women, the Provisional Government, hereby

constituted, will administer the civil and military affairs of the Republic in trust for

the people.

We place the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most High

God. Whose blessing we invoke upon our arms, and we pray that no one who

serves that cause will dishonour it by cowardice, in humanity, or rapine. In this

supreme hour the Irish nation must, by its valour and discipline and by the

readiness of its children to sacrifice themselves for the common good, prove itself

worthy of the august destiny to which it is called.

Signed on Behalf of the Provisional Government.

Thomas J. Clarke,

Sean Mac Diarmada,

Thomas MacDonagh,

P. H. Pearse,

Eamonn Ceannt,

James Connolly,

Joseph Plunkett

The Volunteers seized and fortified six positions In Dublin city: the GPO, the Four

Courts, Boland's Mill, St. Stephen's Green, Jacobs Factory and the South Dublin

Union. Attempts to seize Dublin Castle and Trinity College failed. This latter

failure severely restricted the Volunteers mans of communicating with each other.

The failure of the country to rise made it impossible to prevent the arrival of

English reinforcements. By Wednesady the revolutionaries were outnumbered by

20 to 1. The English secured a cordon about the city and closed in. They

concentrated their attack on the GPO whilst none of the other strongholds came

under the same sort of concentrated bombardment.

A gun-ship, the Helga, arrived in Dublin and field-guns were mounted on Trinity

College. The effect of the continuous shelling of O?Connell St. virtually destroyed

it and the surrounding areas. By Friday the GPO was engulfed in flames and

Pearse gave the order to surrender. 450 people, many of whom were civilians,

were dead with over 2500 wounded. The city was in ruins with the damage

estimated at a massive 2 Million pounds.

Over 3,500 people were subsequently arrested country-wide (including DeVelera

and Collins), although 1,500 were freed after questioning. 1,841 of these were

interned without trial in England, and 171 were tried by secret court martial

resulting in 170 convictions. 90 were sentenced to death but 75 of these

sentences were commuted to life imprisonment. The seven signatories of the

proclamation of independence (Pearse, Connolly, Clarke, MacDonagh,

MacDermott, Plunkett, and Ceannt) were all executed to the outrage of the Irish

public who had now begun to revise their opinion of the insurgents to that of a

heroic nature.


The rising was critical in terms of the overall fight for an Irish Republic.

For the first time the masses of the country wanted an end to English rule.

Nationalism swept the country especially as the details of the secret executions

became known.

National attention was brought to the Irish cause and to the oppressive ways in

which the English ruled the country.

These realisations were in all probability the main aim of the insurgents. The War

of Independence which followed in 1919, the subsequent Civil War of 1922, the

formation of the Irish Free State in 1923 and the declaration by Costello of an

Irish Republic in 1948 can all be traced back to the events of Easter week, 1916.

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