The 1916 Easter Rising

Throughout history, there have been many rebellions or “risings.” When people get tired of something, they try to change it, and rebellions are one of the ways to do so. One of the great examples of rebellions happened in Ireland in the infamous 1916 Easter Rising.

While the Easter Rising took place in 1916, the impetus was built around 1914. England still controlled Ireland but the Irish Republican Brotherhood, or IRB, wanted them gone. On September 5, 1914, the day after Britain declared war on Germany, the Supreme Council of the IRB decided to stage a rising, declaring that it would accept any help Germany was willing to offer. At the head of this plan were Tom Clarke and Sean MacDermott. By 1915, they had established a Military Committee within the IRB that consisted of Joseph Plunkett, Patrick Pearse, and Eamonn Ceannt. They did all these things without the consent of Eoin MacNeill, the Volunteer Chief of Staff of the IRB.

In April, Plunkett went to Germany and presented a plan that was supposed to gain not only Irish freedom, but Germany freedom as well. At the same time, the Irish Citizen Army, or ICA, was getting ready to start its own rebellion but they were unaware of the IRB’s plans. In 1916, the two groups agreed to join forces and act together to form a rebellion. By that time, there were seven members in the IRB’s Military Committee.

The rebellion required a lot of buildup. Supplies had to be organized with men placed in the right positions. However, MacNeill found out about the rising and threatened to prevent it. He briefly agreed to some of the IRB’s actions when it was discovered that a gun shipment was on its way to County Kerry, but when the shipment was scuttled, he backed out again. With some of the IRB’s other leaders on his side, he cancelled all rebellion plans. His actions, however, only set the rebellion back one day.

On Easter Monday, April 24, the Volunteer’s Dublin division was divided into four separate battalions but the turnout was much smaller than expected. One group, 250 strong, was sent to Blackhall Street, where they were supposed to guard against attacks from the West. The second, numbering 200, was sent to St. Stephen’s Green and the third, about 100 men, went to Emerald Square. A further 400 men gathered at Liberty Hall under James Connolly. At midday, some of them attacked the Magazine Fort and disarmed the guards so they could set off explosions and start the rising. Another of the groups stormed the GPO and raised two green flags emblazoned with “Irish Republic” on them. Pearse then read the Proclamation of the Republic.

From there, the rebellion kicked off. Troops were sent out and fire was exchanged, resulting in the death of four men in the “Charge of the Lancers.” On that day, the British won, forcing one of the smaller parties to surrender. From Tuesday to Saturday, the British focused on isolating the rebellion’s headquarters at Dublin Castle. City Hall was taken on Tuesday and martial law was declared. The rebellion was then forced to abandon the garrison at the Post Office and find new headquarters elsewhere. Upon realizing that they were trapped, Pearse surrendered without terms on April 29 and the rebellion ended on April 20, 1916. At the end, there were 116 British dead, 368 wounded and 9 missing. The Irish lost 318 with 2,217 wounded.

Pearse and 14 other leaders were executed in the following weeks. While the Easter Rising failed to accomplish its mission, it helped spark a new wave of Irish hatred towards British authorities and the executed men became martyrs. Soon after, the Irish government collapsed upon itself. In 1921, Ireland established itself as a free state, the Irish Free State, free from British rule forever.

For additional resources on the 1916 Easter Rising, refer to the following sites: