5 Notable Facts About The 1916 Rising
“All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born”
We’ve opted to begin this post with the above quotation from W. B. Yeats’ “Terrible Beauty” as we believe it perfectly encapsulates sentiment surrounding the events of 1916 and its centenary. Also, since three of the movement’s IRB instigators were poets, namely MacDonagh, Plunkett and Pearse, beginning with a poem composed in the wake of their actions and reflecting on the consequences seemed like an apt and poignant opening.
The Easter Rising was an insurrection which lasted from the 24th until the 30th of April 1916. The insurgents in Dublin numbered 1,200 men and women from the nationalist militia, the Irish Volunteers, the socialist trade union group Irish Citizen Army and the women’s group Cumman na mBan
While risings also occurred in counties Galway, Wexford and Meath, apart from action in Ashbourne that killed 11 police, little blood was shed outside of Dublin. The Irish capital was the focal point for the majority of activity, which resulted in the execution of 16 rebel leaders – 15 in a two week period after they had surrendered and one, Roger Casement in August.
Tara Slevin Group wish to commemorate the centenary of these historic events by relaying some interesting details about the events which unfolded at this time a century ago. Below are five notable facts about the 1916 Easter Rising:
1. The Rising Was Planned By 7 members Of The Military Council Of The IRB
The 1916 Easter Rising was planned in secret by just seven men, most of whom were members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), who had formed a ‘Military Council’ to this end after the outbreak of WW1. These men were Thomas Clarke, Sean McDermott, Patrick Pearse, Thomas MacDonagh, Joseph Plunkett, James Connolly and Eamonn Ceannt. All were executed after the Rising for their actions.
2. Events Were Adversely Affected By The Failure Of A Plan Involving Germany
The IRB hoped to get German military backing during the insurrection through an American Irish Republican Group called Clan na Gael, whose members had already established a relationship with German officials. Upon learning that a ship carrying German weaponry had been captured, the Military Council decided to carry out the insurrection on Monday, April 24th, 1916 in an emergency meeting held on Sunday morning, the 23rd of April.
A countermanding order issued by Eoin MacNeill, head of the Irish Volunteers, after the German gunship bearing arms was intercepted, caused mass confusion and resulted in many volunteers missing the Rising.
Many attribute the Rising’s failure outside Dublin to the capture of a ship loaded with Russian rifles acquired by Germany in the war. British officials had intelligence about the ship coming from Germany and captured it before any guns reached the shore of Banna Strand outside Tralee. Sir Roger Casement, a top British foreign service official, who was later executed, was in charge of the gun-running from Germany.
3. The Capture Of Strategically Important Buildings In Dublin Was Key
The Rising began when members of the IRB, the Irish Volunteer Force and the Irish Citizen Army successfully took over the preselected buildings around Dublin with little resistance. These buildings included the GPO, the Four Courts, Jacob’s Factory, Boland’s Mill, the South Dublin Union, St. Stephen’s Green and the College of Surgeons. Both military strategy and position were factors which influenced the choice of buildings to occupy.
The GPO became the main headquarters of the rebellion, with five of the seven members of the Military Council/Provisional Government serving there. Among those in junior positions in the GPO was 24-year-old Michael Collins, who served by Connolly’s side.
4. The Proclamation Of The Irish Republic Was Issued At The Start Of The Rising
The Proclamation of the Irish Republic is the only of its era that mentions women equally, beginning “Irishmen and Irishwomen”. The IRB Military Council declared themselves the ‘Provisional Government’ of the Irish Republic and IRB Military Council member and President of the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic Patrick Pearse read the newly drawn up Proclamation, which outlined the establishment of an independent Irish Republic, to a small crowd at the steps of Dublin’s GPO on Monday April 24th, 1916.
The Proclamation itself outlined who was responsible for igniting the Rising and referenced the Irish Republic’s potential ally of Germany. These details of the proclamation, considered to be treason, guaranteed death by firing squad for the leaders of the Irish Republic if independence was not obtained. The proclamation also called for the Irish abroad to rally to the cause, especially the “Exiled children in America”.
5. All Members Of The Military Council Were Executed
The Easter Rising was considered a betrayal at first by many of the Irish citizenry and the 1916 leaders were even spat at on their way to jail. It was only when the executions began that the national mood shifted.
Many of the leaders believed in the effectiveness of a ‘blood sacrifice’ to inspire Irish nationalism. Blood sacrifice was a common theme of the First World War era. The severe punishment of death by firing squad meted out to those leading the Rising inspired both Irish nationalism and British resentment, just as the Military Council had anticipated.
Songs were sung for those who sacrificed their lives, funds were started for their families, republican flags and badges began appearing in increased numbers, recruitment to the British Armed Forces dropped and Irish nationalism as a whole was rejuvenated.
Countess Constance Markievicz, who had been second in command to Michael Mallin in St. Stephen’s Green, was initially sentenced to death along with the other leaders of the Rising. However, her sentence was changed to life in prison “on account of the prisoner’s sex”.
We hope that by recounting these facts we’ve delivered some insights into the people and stories behind the birth of our nation 100 years ago. It was important for us to mark the significance of an event that brought Irish Republicanism to the forefront of national politics and led to the Irish War of Independence.