The Easter Rising


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1916
We're approaching the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising, and it may be appropriate to give you ClanDonnell's short take on the week-long Rising.

Ireland was not especially ripe for rebellion in the first decade or so of the twentieth century. The penal laws ended and Catholics were moving into the mainstream. Land reforms of the late 19th and early 20th Century were beginning to show positive effects, and more and more Irish farmers were the owners of their farms. The Irish had the same rights as other British subjects, meaning, in particular, they had freedom of speech and assembly, freedom from oppressive government action, the right to trial by jury, and a free press. Home rule, which would have given Ireland authority over most domestic policies, was painfully slow in coming, but it seemed inevitable.

In the sixty or seventy years after the Great Hunger, Ireland remained governed by and was a part of Great Britain. Britain would not have been able to govern Ireland then without the help and acquiescence of the Irish. The Irish were in all levels of the army, the police, and the civil service. The vast majority of Irish accepted British governance and union with Great Britain. Political groups on the far sides of the issue – the Unionists and the Republicans – opposed home rule, each for their own reasons. The Unionists wanted to maintain complete union with the British. The Republicans wanted complete independence. But for most of the Irish people in the middle, the home rule that was to come was sufficient.

The rebellion that did come was not, by any means, a popular uprising. It was instead the work of more radical and more committed elements within Ireland. It was they who led it, and it was the people who followed.

World War I was an especially brutal affair and Great Britain was thoroughly embroiled in it. Two years into the war, Irish extremists thought that Britain’s struggles in the war provided a perfect opportunity for rebellion. Several secret organizations planned a combined uprising scheduled for Easter Sunday, 1916. The organizations included the Irish Volunteers, the Irish Citizen Army (volunteers organized to protect labor union workers against the police), the Cumann na mBan (a women’s paramilitary group), the Fianna Èireann (a Republican youth organization), and the Irish Republican Brotherhood (the secret society organization founded with the American Fenians). Each of these groups and the members of these groups would evolve into a single organization after the Easter rebellion – the Irish Republican Army.

(The photo on the right is of the Cumann na mBan marching in Dublin before the Rising.)

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