On this day 105 years ago, the Easter Rising began
In Dublin and several outposts across the country, the nation’s bravest rose to expel British rule in Ireland—and to establish the Irish Republic. But this was no straightforward task.
In preparation for the Rising, Roger Casement secured arms and ammunition from the German government, which was at war with Britain at the time. But, on April 21st, these arms were intercepted by British intelligence and the crew was forced to scuttle the ship carrying them.
The following day, Eoin MacNeil, Chief of Staff for the Irish Volunteers, moved to call off the Rising. Despite the countermanding order, on April 23rd, the Irish Republican Brotherhood’s Military Council committed itself to action.
Therefore, despite the confusion, an estimated 1,500 men and women rose to the challenge of British occupation. At 11:00am, the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army—united as the provisional Army of the Irish Republic—gathered in and around Dublin City Centre.
Throughout the morning, the Volunteers captured several key locations in Dublin. The most important of these was the General Post Office (GPO), which became the headquarters for the Rising.
At around 12:45pm, shortly after the GPO was captured, Pádraic Pearse emerged from its front door and read aloud the Proclamation. This historic document claimed “the allegiance of every Irishman and Irishwoman” to the construction of the Irish Republic, which guaranteed “religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens […] oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien Government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past”—and continue to do so today.
It was signed by the seven members of the provisional government of the Irish Republic—Thomas J. Clarke, Sean MacDiarmada, Thomas Macdonagh, P. H. Pearse, Eamonn Ceannt, James Connolly and Joseph Plunkett.
By 2:00pm, British troops reported that strategically-positioned Volunteers were preventing them from moving freely through the city. It was at this point that heavy fighting broke out.
Despite securing Harcourt Railway Station, the Volunteers did not establish control over other major links of transportation—such as the quays in the Dublin Docklands. They also failed to disrupt key lines of communication. These mistakes enabled the British military to provide reinforcements through the Curragh.
By the end of the week, the British state had viciously crushed the Rising. During that time, more than 2,600 people were wounded. Of the 485 people killed: 260 were civilians, 143 were British military and police personnel, and 82 were Irish Rebels. Many of those innocent civilians killed or wounded, were victims of British artillery fire on the city.
Sixteen of those Irish Rebels were publicly executed for their roles in the Rising. This included the seven signatories to the Proclamation. Even James Connolly, Marxist theorist and revolutionary, was blindfolded, tied to a chair and shot by firing squad—all while suffering from a gangrenous foot wound at the time.
Despite the Rising’s violent end, the brutality of the British state—and the martyrdom of the sixteen—was instrumental in the widespread radicalisation of the Irish masses. So-called ‘Home Rule’ was no longer enough. The alien presence in Ireland had either to be “expelled or assimilated.” Only the Irish Republic would do.
The proud men and women who subsequently fought the War of Independence (1919-1921) therefore, were not fighting to achieve the Republic; they sought to preserve the Republic established by the masses, led by the seven, in 1916.
To this day, especially after partition, the repression of the Irish Republic continues.
Ireland’s six northeastern counties—Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Derry and Tyrone—remain under British political control. And, despite a quisling government of its own, the rest of Ireland is still subject to its economic control.
It is clear then, that the objective of the Easter Rising, after 105 years remains incomplete. The struggle for the Irish Republic is by no means over; it has entered a different stage.
P. H. Pearse made it clear “that education should be a preparation for complete living;” the lessons of the Rising should prepare us for our work as Irish Republicans today.
105 years of long and arduous struggle later, let us remember the Rising as more than a history lesson.