As a young boy around twelve years old I remember helping my father move boxes from my grandmother’s loft which had been stored there for many years. During the removal of these boxes one of them split open and out spilled sheafs of typed paper which I paid no attention to, simply discarding them aside as I was bored with the mundane task of moving them from the loft. After sitting down and surveying the task at hand, I remember thinking, I can’t be bothered doing this, so in this moment of boredom I picked up some of the sheets and started reading the content. These pieces of paper contained words such as, revolutionary, socialist and nationalist. There were also names of people who I couldn’t pronounce but one name I could read was James Connolly.
As I got older, I decided to find out more about these people, and what the Easter Rising was, which in turn has shaped my political beliefs throughout my lifetime.
Ireland has had a long history of British rule upon its shores, from the Tudor re-conquest, Cromwell’s campaign and the plantation period of the seventeenth century, the 1801 Act of Union, the starvation policy which resulted in An Gorta Mor, these events began the process of colonisation which could be argued were the catalyst for centuries of disaffection. Irish history is littered with acts of rebellion, from the United Irishmen of 1798, Robert Emmett’s insurgency in 1803, Daniel O’Connell and his mass movement for Catholic Emancipation which was a constitutional movement, the Fenian Dynamite Plot of 1900 all showed that the people of Ireland wouldn’t be crushed under Britain’s colonial heel. The conditions were ripe for further acts of rebellion and this culminated in a series of events that changed Ireland forever.
One hundred and three years ago this Easter Monday an attempt at armed insurrection to eradicate British political, economical and military rule in Ireland occurred, organised by the military command of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, led by the Irish Citizens Army, Fianna Eireann, the Irish Volunteers and the women of Cumann na mBan. Their aim was to establish an independent Irish Republic to usurp British rule and have the people determine how their country should evolve and take it’s rightful place in the world as a small nation during a very tumultuous period in world history.
On the 24th of April 1916, volunteers from each group seized prominent and strategic buildings in Dublin and occupied areas they deemed vital to the success of the rebellion. A proclamation was read out and poster’s were pasted onto walls with the Declaration for an Irish Republic which included the signatories listed below who all actively engaged in the insurrection
Tomas J Clarke
Patrick H Pearse
The participants of the Eastern Rising numbered in the IMHA are recorded as around 1600 whilst the British armed forces are recorded as being at just over 3000, nearly double what the volunteers could muster. A vastly superior trained force of British military might crushed the insurrection after five days of fighting. The leaders were executed and many others imprisoned. When you gauge what the British forces had at their disposal the outcome becomes a formality, but the efforts by those involved should never be forgotten, and won’t be by many in Ireland regardless of what British and Irish revisionists write.
Vladimir Lenin one of the main protagonists in the Russian Revolution three years after 1916 had the clarity to see the Rising for what it was in terms of the right of a small nation to determine it’s own fate, rather than be at the whim of a country driven by imperialism and colonialism.
So what did the Easter Rising achieve?
In my humble opinion, it was more than a bloody putsch as some claim. It gave the Irish people the resolve to try to achieve an independent state that followed after the War of Independence. It also gave Irishmen more thought on why they should be travelling to fight for the British on the fields of Flanders etc (which they did bravely) instead of fighting for their own countries right to flourish as was written in the Proclamation.
So when you’re at the game tomorrow and you hear the song Grace ringing out remember the courage of those who stood for what they believed in, this same attitude has carried me a long way in my journey through life and will do so for others who are steadfast and principled.
One last remark as we approach the anniversary of 1916, those who murdered the journalist Lyra McKee have nothing in common with the ideals of those who partook in the Easter Rising and would find their actions an abhorrence.