On this day in 1916, the Easter Rising was launched by Irish republicans to end British rule in Ireland and establish an independent Irish Republic while the United Kingdom was heavily engaged in the First World War. It was the most significant uprising in Ireland since the rebellion of 1798, and the first armed action of the Irish revolutionary period.
Organized by a seven-man Military Council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the Rising began on Easter Monday, April 24, 1916, and lasted for six days. Members of the Irish Volunteers, led by schoolmaster and Irish language activist Patrick Pearse, were joined by the smaller Irish Citizen Army of James Connolly and 200 women of Cumann na mBan. They seized key locations in Dublin, including the famous General Post Office, and proclaimed an Irish Republic.
The British Army brought in thousands of reinforcements as well as artillery and a gunboat. There was fierce street fighting on the routes into the city center, where the rebels put up stiff resistance, slowing the British advance and inflicting heavy casualties. Germany had sent a shipment of arms to the rebels, but the British had intercepted it just before the Rising began.
As these arms were critical to any chance of success for the Republican action, Volunteer leader Eoin MacNeill issued a countermand in a bid to halt the Rising, which greatly reduced the number of rebels who mobilized. Only partially manned and armed, the rising was doomed to military failure at its outset.
As a side-bar on Germany’s involvement in the Rising, it is your humble scribe’s opinion that had said intervention been from Nazi Germany rather than the Kaiser’s empire, the entire IRA cause of the 20th century would have been snuffed out as a one-off due to the repugnance of such a confederation.
With much greater numbers and heavier weapons, the British Army suppressed the Rising handily. Pearse agreed to an unconditional surrender on Saturday, April 29; 3,500 people were taken prisoner by the British, many of whom had played no part in the Rising. 1,800 of them were sent to internment camps or prisons in Britain, and most of the leaders of the Rising were executed following courts-martial.
485 people were killed in the Easter Rising. About 54% were civilians, 30% were British military and police, and 16% were Irish rebels. More than 2,600 were wounded, and many of the civilian casualties were result of the British use of artillery and heavy machine guns, or mistaking civilians for rebels. Others were caught in the crossfire in a crowded city, and the shelling and the fires it caused left parts of inner city Dublin in ruins.
The Irish Republican struggles continued on with long and occasional abatements well into the late 20th century, including the assassination of WW2 hero Lord Louis Mountbatten and his nephews, who perished in the detonation of an IRA bomb aboard the Shadow V fishing boat in 1979. The Good Friday Agreement finally brought peace to the emerald isle in 1998.
Rath Dé ort.