Easter was not always like this. It had to


Easter Rising 1916



Name: Ha Trinhová

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Date: 30.1.2018

World count: 2094


There is no doubt that the Irish history is very
versatile and full of tense events. Ireland, as we know today, was not always
like this. It had to undergo many hardships and battles to be shaped into its
nowadays form. However, there is one particular event that has caught my
attention the most. I believe that this incident, regardless of how short or
how unsuccessful it was, played a crucial part in the development of the Irish
history. The event is none other than the Easter Rising of 1916. The
consequences of this incident has triggered a chain of unstoppable series that
led to the change of political scene of Ireland for good.


First of all, what is the Easter Rising actually
and what are its roots? In short, it was an attempt in 19161
to overthrow the British rule in Ireland in order to set up an Irish republic.
But why would there be a need for such actions? The cause for it can be traced
back to another incident that has occurred several years ago- the Great Famine.
It was many years of hardships and suffering for the Irish people. It is
estimated that almost 1 million people perished in those years and another
large amount of them fled to different parts of the world. Ireland was under
British rule at that period of time, however the British government did the
least to help the Irish in need.  People
felt that the government neither listened to the complaints and objections –
nor did they care about such objections. To them, the Irish had become second
class residents in the world’s greatest empire builder. Any cases presented to London about freeing up Ireland
from British rule fell on apparently deaf ears.  As a result, new
groups appeared- a part of Irish population that was against British government
and its way of ruling. Groups such as the
Fenians and the IRB. They held a strong belief that there was no
security nor freedom in the British system of governing for the Irish. Consequently, the idea of freeing Ireland from the
British crown was born. In fact, there was not only one society but various
groups who supported the idea of free Ireland in their own ways. For instance,
the Home Rule. Its ideology was basically about Ireland being more independent,
having some form of self-government. Home rule could have been a progressive
step forward, however, it meant just a partial separation from Britain.
Furthermore, it took a long process until a bill for it finally passed in the
British parliament, which could have been celebrated as a success if the World
War I had not appeared. Although the bill passed, the First World War prevented
the implementation of the home ruling. This is when another movement emerges-
the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB). The Irish Republican Brotherhood had
been formed in 1858. It was a secret association and it is thought that it
never had more than 2,000 members in it. It had one humble aspiration – Irish
independence. In 1910, the Irish Republican Brotherhood started its own
publication – the ‘Irish Freedom’ – and all those men who signed the
proclamation of an Irish Republic in Easter 1916 were members of the IRB. They believed home ruling was not
enough and that there was a need for complete independence of Ireland. They
worked as a secret revolutionary organization on a plan that we could mark as
the beginning of the Easter Rising. The choice to rise was based on the traditional statement
that England’s struggle was Ireland’s chance. Since Britain was occupied with
the World War in other parts of Europe. But it also mirrored the military
council’s fright that Irish patriotism was in decline, a concern reinforced by prevalent
Irish nationalist support for the aims of the Irish Parliamentary Party and the
British war effort. On 23rd April, the council agreed to continue with
the rising the next day, Easter Monday. The recruiting of a proclamation announcing the
establishment of a republic was one of the final steps taken by those who
planned the riot. It decided that the proclamation should be read to the public
outside Dublin’s General Post Office (GPO) by the president of the Provisional
Government of the Irish Republic. Despite Thomas Clarke’s seniority, it was
agreed that Pádraig Pearse2
should act as president. Shortly after noon on Easter Monday, Pearse convoyed by
an armed security, stood on the steps of the GPO and read the proclamation, indicating
the launch of the Easter Rising. Ireland’s ‘national right to freedom and
sovereignty’ was proclaimed. Initially, the uprising was planned all over
Ireland but in the end, conditions allowed the struggle that followed to be mainly
narrowed to Dublin. The British military ambush, which the rebels had estimated,
did not at first occur. When the rising began, the authorities had just 400
troops to confront around 1,000 rebels. As the week moved on, the fighting in
some regions became more extreme, leading to several prolonged, angrily queried
street battles. By Friday 28 April, about 18-20,000 soldiers had been accumulated
in the capital against about 1,600 rebels while much of the city centre had
been devastated by British artillery fire. The following day, Pearse admitted
unconditional defeat and issued orders to this effect. A total of 450 people
were slaughtered during the rebellion, amongst them 64 rebels. 2,614 were
wounded, and nine others were stated missing, almost all in Dublin. The British
seizure of a shipment of German arms three days before the rebellion was partly
responsible for the failure of the nationwide mobilisation. Furthermore,
confusion was caused by conflicting commands that were sent out to the Irish
Voulunteers by their head person Eoin Macneill. Dr Fearghal McGarry, from
Queen’s University Belfast, said even though there was very tiny support for
the rebellion at the time, it was immensely productive in terms of what the
organisers of the rising wanted to attain. “They did not expect it to win
power, what they planned was a spectacle, a gesture to transform public
opinion,” he claimed. “They knew they would not win, they knew some
of them would die.”3 He
said that, in political terms, the rising accomplished everything that the planners
thought it would accomplish. “It destroyed the Irish Parliamentary Party’s
credibility and it derailed Home Rule. It exposed the oppressive nature of
British rule and it transformed public opinion by winning public support for
republicanism. What might have surprised the leaders was how quickly all this
happened. Within a year and a half republicanism had become the most important
movement in Ireland.”4 Dr McGarry proposes that,
for many Irish citizens, the importance of the rising is less in the events of
Easter week than in their longer term heritage. “Rather it’s focused on
the attainment of Irish sovereignty, self-determination. It’s bound up with
national identity. In contrast, the rising’s significance for many northern
nationalists over the past century reflects partition and the failure to
achieve a united Irish Republic. In the south, the rising is increasingly seen
as history, not politics.”5


Last but not least, the consequences of the Easter Rising 1916 had a vast
impact on the Irish nation. Most Irish people were horrified by the death and
annihilation released by the uprising. The defeated insurgents were taunted and
attacked by some bystanders as they were led through the streets of Dublin. But,
as had happened after earlier failed rebellions, Britain’s reply – including
the death sentence for 15 of the persons in charge, the arrest of 3,430 men and
79 women (many of which were absolutely innocent) and the obligation of martial
law throughout the entire country – aggravated resentment and compassion and
understanding for the rebels. Just as Pearse had imagined, the sacrificial
victim of the rebels transformed previously unconcerned nationalists to the
republican cause. In the general election of December 1918, nationalist Ireland
firmly rejected the Irish Party in favour of the new Sinn Fein6
party which identified itself with the 1916 rebels. This dramatic
transformation of opinion must be set in the wider context of the unsteady
period between 1912 and the end of World War One. The utilization of the Ulster
Volunteers and their successful insolence of a weak Liberal government
radicalised Irish society, destabilising the moderate and peace-making Irish
Party’s hold over its electorate. John Redmond’s open-ended commitment to a progressively
unpopular war, and the British government’s insensitive handling of enrolment,
further destabilised constitutional nationalism. Britain’s response to the
rising was hardly severe. Few of the other great powers would have responded in
such a measured way, but the view of oppressive brutality allowed separatists
to portray Britain as the historic persecutor of old, as did the government’s horrendous
tries to force conscription in 1918. The fact that the government primarily responded
to the revolt by making an effort to ensure nationalist and unionist agreement
for the instant execution of Home Rule also suggested to many nationalists that
a week of violence had proved more effective than decades of constitutional
brawl. There can be almost no doubt that the Easter Rising was the crucial
event in altering Irish Nationalist way of thinking. Had it not happened,
southern Ireland may have stayed a decentralised area of the United Kingdom, or
tranquilly developed into an imperial dominion like Australia or Canada. The
north almost certainly would have remained British. As an alternative, Sinn
Féin’s victory saw the formation of Dáil Éireann, an Irish parliament which wanted
to create the republic declared in Easter 1916 over two years of revolutionary “guerrilla
warfare.”7 The
legacy of the Irish Easter Rising, the ‘terrible beauty’ described by William Butler
Yeats, proved more ferocious and sustaining than its planners could have ever
imagined.8 Having
failed to accomplish the republic, the treaty which conveyed the War of
Independence (fought between the IRA and the British authorities in Ireland) to
a close gravely separated the Irish republican movement, leading to the Irish
Civil War (fought between the pro-treaty and anti-treaty factions of the IRA)
of 1922-1923. Future generations of republicans, whether opposed to the
limitations of southern Ireland’s independence or the separation of the nation,
would look to the Easter Rising as both an inspiration and a validation for
their own unmandated deeds of viciousness.9

To sum up, Ireland had been under some form of English control since the 12th century10. The
British rule did not always brought agreeable treatments to solving issues in
Ireland. Therefore, it was quite inevitable that an uprising was soon to
happen, given the many unpleasant situations Ireland had to undergo. After several
attempts to bring more freedom to Ireland, the turning point finally began with
the plotting of what became known as the Easter Rising. Since the members of
this revolt had to plan in secrecy, they did not have such a large number of supporters.
Besides, the movement met with failure eventually. Even during the process itself,
many of Irish citizens did not sympathize with the participants of the
uprising. Nevertheless, it was the way of how British government handled the
uprising that eventually lead to a shift of people’s mind. The response from
England was unspeakably inconsiderate and harsh, the majority of Irish
population could not bear it. Resulting in the fact, that the executed men of
the Easter Rising were considered as martyrs. This event is demonstrated as a major
political, military and cultural progress in Ireland and marks a crucial part
in the separation of Ireland into the Irish Free State which has eventually
became the Republic of Ireland as we know today.














1. www.bbc.co.uk

2. www.history.com

3. John Wilson Foster, The Canadian
Journal of Irish Studies 11


4. Thomas Irish, Trinity in War and Revolution

5. Thomas E. Hachey,
The American Historical Review 

6. David Harkness. The English Historical Review 112



1 Harkness, David. The English Historical Review 112, no. 445 (1997): 254.

2 Thomas E. Hachey. The American Historical Review 100, no. 5 (1995): 1579-580.

Mulvagh, “Easter Rising 1916: Six days of armed struggle
that changed Irish and British history.” BBC News. March 23, 2016.
Accessed January 31, 2018. http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-35873316.

4 Conor
Mulvagh, “Easter Rising 1916: Six days of armed struggle
that changed Irish and British history.” BBC News. March 23, 2016.
Accessed January 31, 2018.

5  Conor Mulvagh, “Easter Rising
1916: Six days of armed struggle that changed Irish and British history.”
BBC News. March 23, 2016. Accessed January 31, 2018.


6 IRISH, TOMÁS. Trinity in War and Revolution 1912-1923. Dublin: Royal Irish Academy, 2015.

7 McGarry,
Dr Fearghal. “History – British History in depth: The Easter Rising of
1916.” BBC. March 03, 2011. Accessed January 31, 2018. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/britain_wwone/easter_rising_01.shtml.

8 Foster, John Wilson. “Yeats and the Easter
Rising.” The Canadian Journal of Irish
Studies 11, no. 1 (1985): 21-34.

9 McGarry, Dr
Fearghal. “History – British History in depth: The Easter Rising of
1916.” BBC. March 03, 2011. Accessed January 31, 2018. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/britain_wwone/easter_rising_01.shtml.


10 History.com Staff. “Easter
Rising.” History.com. 2009. Accessed January 31, 2018.