You may hear or see some features in the media around now about an event in Irish history referred to as The Easter Rising. But what was this, and who was involved? This is a relatively brief overview, but if you are interested, read on.
As a result of the 1800 Act of Union, Ireland became part of Britain. It was decided that Westminster would preside over Ireland, and this triggered a snowball of nationalism which was to culminate in the Easter rising. Social, cultural and political factors all contributed to a rise in Irish patriotism, and men like Padraig Pearse and James Connolly were determined to use these factors to create an independent republic.
By 1884, most men in Ireland were able to vote, and there was growing support for Home Rule. Many MPs at Westminster agreed that Ireland should govern itself. Gladstone, the Liberal British Prime Minister, introduced the Home Rule Bills of 1886 and 1893. The House of Lords did not share Gladstone’s sentiment, however, and quashed these Bills with immediate effect.
In 1912, the new Prime Minister, Asquith, introduced a third Home Rule Bill. The Lords were now only able to postpone the bill; they no longer had the power to dismiss it altogether. Unfortunately for the Nationalists, just as it seemed that Home Rule was going to become law, the First World War began. All attention was now focused on defending British soil, and Irish nationalists were encouraged to contribute to the war effort.
The rise of Irish patriotism was fuelled by the formation of organizations such as the Gaelic Athletic Association (aimed at promoting Irish sporting activity) and the Gaelic League (aimed at reviving the use of written and spoken Irish). There was also a surge in literary works that were directly influenced by Irish culture and history. The Irish Republic Brotherhood (IRB) was a secret organization whose goal was the creation of an independent Irish republic. They recruited from within the GAA and the Gaelic League, capitalising on the increasing popularity of a national identity. The Irish Citizen’s Army (ICA) was formed to defend the interests of workers who had been attempting to stand up to unscrupulous employers who took advantage of a glutted labour market. These groups both played pivotal roles in staging the uprising.
The IRB decided that the distraction of the war provided an ideal opportunity to engage in rebellion against British rule. The Germans proclaimed their support of the Irish independence effort in November 1914. In doing so, they opened the door to providing arms for Irish revolutionaries. Roger Casement was arrested in April 1916 for attempting to bring guns and ammunition from Germany into Ireland, and this undermined the efforts of the IRB. Despite this, they were determined to forge ahead and capitalise on the increasing popularity of nationalist feeling.
On 24th April 1916, the IRB and the ICA took over many of Dublin’s most important landmarks, as well as the main routes in and out of the city. They set up their headquarters at the General Post Office, and it was from here that Padraig Pearse read the Proclamation of Independence (pictured above). This Proclamation was a statement from Pearse, Eamonn Ceannt, Joseph Plunket, Thomas MacDonagh, Thomas Clarke, James Connolly and Sean MacDiarmada.
The Proclamation declared this group to be the new government of an independent Ireland. In signing this document, all the men were pledging their allegiance to Ireland, and decreeing their own executions in the event that the British government was able to overthrow their rule. The British government did eventually stamp out their efforts, and the signatories of the Proclamation were executed. However, this event remains a pivotal moment in Irish and British history, and from which many other battles were fought. 100 years on, people continue to reflect on and remember this turbulent period, and the events that followed.
I'm a former English teacher and private tutor who is passionate about education. I've been writing professionally for the past three years and have written educational worksheets for use in schools as well as contributing to an educational journal. I've also written on every other topic under the sun!