24 April 1916: The Easter Rising – Éirí Amach na Cásca

Darragh Christie, 24 April 2016 · # ·

Schoolmaster, poet and linguist Patrick Pearce (Pádraig Anraí Mac Piarais) stood on the steps of the General Post Office in Dublin, on the 24th April 1916, and read out an impassioned plea and proclamation.

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

As he did so strategic points around the city were occupied by the Irish Volunteers , and the Irish Citizen Army led by James Connolly (Séamas Ó Conghaile).

200 women of Cumann na mBan also took part.

The aim of the uprising was to make Ireland a Republic.

Six days of running battles and street fighting between Irish nationalists and the British Army (including some Australians called up whilst on leave in Ireland ) resulted in thousands of casualties.

The rebels were finally forced to surrender after heavy artillery was brought to bear on their G.P.O. headquarters.

The heavy-handedness and indifference of the British army to the deaths of bystanders, destruction of city buildings and mass round-up and detention of civilians swayed public opinion against the British administration.

The summary executions of the rebel leaders breathed new life into an ancient and collective sense of injustice felt by the Irish people. James Connolly – severely wounded and unable to stand – was dragged from his cell, tied upright to a chair, and shot by firing squad.

Though the rebel leaders thought they had failed, many of those who died would be remembered on monuments and sung about in ballads. The events of Easter 1916 were marked as a State celebration on Easter Monday 2016 attended by thousands including descendants of the original participants. The events were also remembered in smaller ceremonies in Australian cities.

The Irish rebellion of 1916 impacted on Australia. In the main, community leaders from the Catholic Church, the Trade Union movement and Labour Party urged their congregations and members to vote against consciption.

With a few exceptions non-Catholic congregations were urged to remain pro-conscription and loyal to the British Empire. The “white feather brigade” continued their attempts to shame able bodied men into replenishing the ranks of the fallen and join the ever-growing casualty lists.

The IWW (or “Wobblies”) in Australia were avidly anti-conscription. The treatment of leaders such as James Connolly only galvanised their efforts to create “a brotherhood of man” free of war and poverty.

Consequently the nation became divided along sectarian and political lines. The “No” vote carried the day narrowly in 1916, and by a greater majority in 1917. Pro-conscription evangelist and sore loser Billy Hughes went on to form a National Labour Party aligned with the Commonwealth (Conservative) Liberal Party.

Ireland’s troubles were not over, but after further conflict and political horse trading 26 of its 32 counties formed a Free State in 1922.

Recommended viewing:
3 Part Documentary “1916 The Irish Rebellion” narrated by Liam Neeson
1916 The Irish Rebellion US Trailer uploaded by University of Notre Dame
James Connolly: Ireland’s Greatest