Ireland & the 1916 Commemoration

The men and women of the 1916 Rising envisaged a new Ireland as a national democracy; an Ireland which, in the words of the Proclamation, “guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and [which] declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and all of its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally.” They believed that this could only be achieved through complete independence.

History of the 1916 Rising

Stair Éirí Amach 1916

When they seized the General Post Office in Dublin on Easter Monday, 24 April 1916, the leaders of the Rising proclaimed a free Irish Republic in which the egalitarian idea was centrally enshrined. The Proclamation, which was first read out by Patrick Pearse on the steps of the GPO just after noon, declared the rights of the people of Ireland to be sovereign. It looked forward to the establishment of a native Government elected on the democratic principles of self-determination and government by consent. The 1916 Rising set in train an unstoppable process which led to the separation of Ireland from Great Britain.

The events of 1916 must be viewed against the backdrop of the broader nationalist movement, the convictions of those who opposed any weakening of the link with the Crown and the momentous events being played out on the battlefields of Europe in one of the bloodiest conflicts that the world had ever seen. It should be noted that the continuing threat of conscription brought about by the manpower needs of the war consolidated the growing rift within the popular opinion. The ongoing frustration within Nationalist Ireland at the lack of progress on Home Rule, the prospect that it would not even be for the whole island, reinforced by the refusal of the British War Office to allow the creation of a distinctly Irish Brigade, and its rejection of even an Irish divisional badge, was compounded by the abhorrence of the executions.

The Backdrop to the 1916 Rising……..

Home Rule / Rialtas Dúchais

The demand for Home Rule as articulated by the Irish Parliamentary Party had dominated Irish politics since the 1870s. This was strongly resisted by Unionism. As the prospect of some form of Home Rule gained momentum in the early 1900s, Ulster increasingly became the focus of Unionism’s attempts to resist Home Rule.

The imminent passage of the third Home Rule Bill, influenced by a British Government’s parliamentary dependency on Irish MPs, led to the formation by Unionists of the Ulster Volunteer Force in 1912. This represented an attempt to prevent the implementation of the third Home Rule Bill by the threat of force and precipitated the formation of the nationalist Irish Volunteers. The outbreak of World War I overshadowed the Irish crisis. The long awaited Home Rule Bill, though placed on the statute book, was not to come into effect until after the war, at which point special arrangements, yet to be negotiated, to meet the objections of Ulster Unionists would be introduced. 

Bhí an t-éileamh ar Rialtas Dúchais de réir mar a bhí curtha chun cinn ag Páirtí Parlaiminteach na hÉireann go mór chun tosaigh i bpolaitíocht na hÉireann ó na 1870idí. Chuir na hAontachtaithe go mór ina aghaidh. De réir mar a bhí borradh ag teacht faoi chineál éigin de Rialtas Dúchais i dtús na 1900idí, ba mhó a bhí na hAontachtaithe ag díriú ar Chúige Uladh agus iad ag cur in aghaidh Rialtas Dúchais. 

Chruthaigh na hAontachtaithe Óglaigh Uladh mar gheall ar an tríú Bille Rialtais Dúchais a bheith ar tí a rith, Bille a bhí faoi thionchar ag spléachas parlaiminteach Rialtas na Breataine ar MPanna na hÉireann. Is éard a bhí i gceist ansin iarracht an tríú Bille Rialtais Dúchais a chosc trí fhorneart a bhagairt agus is ina dhiaidh sin a cruthaíodh Óglaigh na hÉireann náisiúnach. Ba mhó i gceist tosú An Chéad Chogadh Domhanda ná géarchéim na hÉireann. Ní raibh Bille an Rialtais Dúchais a rabhthas ag feitheamh le fada air le teacht i bhfeidhm go dtí tar éis an chogaidh, cé go raibh sé curtha ar an gclár reachtanna, agus ag an tráth sin bheadh socruithe speisialta, a bhí le socrú go fóill, le tabhairt isteach chun freastal ar agóidí Aontachtaithe Uladh.

World War IAn Chéad Chogadh Domhanda

Official British estimates record over 200,000 Irishmen, from both traditions, fought in World War I with approximately 40,000 losing their lives. For Unionism, it was an issue of loyalty to the Crown. For Nationalists the situation was more complex. The leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, John Redmond, was also the nominal political leader of the Irish Volunteers. At a speech in Woodenbridge in September 1914, he pledged his support for the war effort and called on the Volunteers to go “wherever the firing line extends.” The majority of the Volunteers supported Redmond’s position and formed the National Volunteers. A smaller contingent led by Eoin MacNeill kept the name Irish Volunteers and refused to support the British war effort. 

The war was initially promoted by Britain as “the defence of little Belgium”. It later evolved into one fought for the rights of small nations as expressed by President Wilson, and the principle of self determination for such nations, especially in the defeated central European Empires formed much of the debate at the subsequent peace talks at Versailles. For some Irish nationalists there was an irony in fighting in the British army for such a cause. Moreover initial public enthusiasm for the war quickly faded as it was felt that there was little recognition for the contribution of those Irishmen who had enlisted. The Rising casualty lists, allied to the threat of conscription, further dented such enthusiasm.

De réir mheastacháin oifigiúla na Breataine, bhí os cionn 200,000 Éireannach, ón dá thraidisiún, ag troid sa Chéad Chogadh Domhanda agus maraíodh thart ar 40,000 díobh. I gcás na nAontachtaithe, dílseacht don Choróin a bhí i gceist.I gcás na Náisiúnaithe bhí an cás níos casta. Ba é ceannaire Pháirtí Parlaiminteach na hÉireann, Seán Mac Réamainn, ceannaire polaitiúil ainmniúil ar Óglaigh na hÉireann freisin. Ag óráid a thug sé i nGearradh na nGabhlán i Meán Fómhair 1914, d’fhógair sé a thacaíocht don chogadh agus d’iarr ar an hÓglaigh dul chun cogaíochta. Thacaigh tromlach na nÓglach le seasamh Mhic Réamainn agus bhunaigh siad na hÓglaigh Náisiúnta. Choinnigh líon níos lú faoi cheannas Eoin Mhic Néill an t-ainm Óglaigh na hÉireann agus dhiúltaigh siad tacú le feachtas cogaidh na Breataine. 

Ba í an bholscaireacht a rinne an Bhreatain ar an gcogadh ar dtús báire ná go raibh siad ag cosaint tír bheag na Beilge. D’athraigh sé ina dhiaidh sin go dtí cogadh a bhí á throid ar mhaithe le cearta na náisiún beag mar a dúirt an tUachtarán Wilson, agus bhí prionsabal an fhéinchinnidh do náisiúin den sórt sin, go háirithe sna hImpireachtaí i lár na hEorpa a bhí curtha de dhroim seoil, cuid mhór chun tosaigh sa díospóireacht ag na cainteanna síochána ina dhiaidh sin ag Versailles. B’ait an ní i gcás roinnt náisiúnaithe de chuid na hÉireann go mbeidís ag troid in arm na Breataine ar mhaithe le cúis den sórt sin. Chomh maith leis sin, tháinig meath go tapaidh ar dhíograis an phobail don chogadh mar gur mothaíodh gur beag aitheantas a bhí á thabhairt do rannpháirtíocht na nÉireannach sin a liostáil. De réir mar a bhí saighdiúirí á marú agus bagairt an choinscríofa fós ann bhí meath ag teacht ar an díograis sin. 

1916 RisingÉirí Amach 1916

It was against this backdrop that the 1916 Rising was organised. Elements within the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), a secret association going back to 1858, which had consistently held as their aim the securing of a separate and distinct Irish Republic, formed the plan. It was hoped that the Rising would secure Ireland a place at a peace conference after the war. IRB members had risen to positions of prominence in the Volunteers and it was this force, along with the Irish Citizen Army led by James Connolly, that carried out the Rising.

The broad spectrum of views and backgrounds of the Irish Volunteers was reflected in divisions amongst its leadership. The issue of conflicting orders, by those supporting and opposed to the Rising, made for a confused beginning to the Rising. It should be noted that the membership of the Irish Volunteers had risen from 2 – 3000 members in September 1914 to circa 15,000 by 1916. The organisation was strongly infiltrated by the Irish Republican Brotherhood.

On Easter Monday, 24 April, 1916, the General Post Office in Dublin was occupied by the insurgents and it became their headquarters. The Proclamation was read from here on the same day. The signatories were Thomas J. Clarke, Sean MacDiarmada, P.H. Pearse, James Connolly, Thomas MacDonagh, Éamonn Ceannt and Joseph Plunkett. It sets out their aspirations not just for freedom from British rule, but to create an Ireland where all people could be free to accomplish their potential regardless of their wealth, class or religion.

The insurgents also occupied other strategic buildings in Dublin, such as the Four Courts, Boland’s Bakery, Jacob’s Factory, the Royal College of Surgeons and the South Dublin Union. While most of the action took place in Dublin, sizeable numbers of Volunteers turned out in Louth, Wexford, Galway and Ashbourne. Fighting lasted a week and resulted in the deaths of over 250 civilians, 130 members of the crown forces and over 60 insurgents.

In an effort to prevent further bloodshed, Pearse declared an unconditional surrender which read “In order to prevent further slaughter of the civil population and in the hope of saving the lives of our followers, the members of the Provisional Government present at headquarters have decided on an unconditional surrender, and commandants or officers commanding districts will order their commands to lay down arms. P.H. Pearse, Dublin 30th April 1916.”

Many Volunteer units marched in formation to lay down their weapons.

It has to be said that, public opinion was not initially on the side of the insurgents, due to lack of understanding of the purpose, as well as the loss of life; the carnage and bloodshed. However, this was to quickly change.

Is sin é an chaoi a raibh cúrsaí nuair a eagraíodh Éirí Amach 1916. Is dream laistigh de Bhráithreachas Phoblacht na hÉireann (IRB), cumann rúnda a bhí ann ó 1858, a raibh sé mar aidhm sheasta acu Poblacht Éireannach ar leithligh a bhaint amach, a chruthaigh an plean. Bhíothas ag súil go gcinnteodh an tÉirí Amach áit d’Éirinn ag an gcomhdháil síochána tar éis an chogaidh. Bhí céimeanna arda ag comhaltaí den IRB sna hÓglaigh agus ba é an fórsa sin, i dteannta le Arm Cathartha na hÉireann faoi cheannas Shéamuis Uí Chonghaile, a bhí i mbun an Éirí Amach.

Ba léir réimse leathan thuairimí agus éagsúlacht cúlraí lucht Óglaigh na hÉireann san easaontas i measc na gceannairí. Bhí tús an Éirí Amach trína chéile mar gheall ar dhaoine a bhí ag tacú leis an Éirí Amach agus daoine a bhí ina choinne a bheith ag eisiúint orduithe a bhí ag teacht salach ar a chéile. Ba chóir a thabhairt ar aird gur ardaigh comhaltas Óglaigh na hÉireann ó 2/3000 comhalta i Meán Fómhair 1914 go dtí thart ar 15,000 faoi 1916. Bhí Bráithreachas Phoblacht na hÉireann tagtha isteach go mór san eagraíocht.

Ghabh na ceannaircí Ard-Oifig an Phoist Luan Cásca, an 24 Aibreán, 1916, agus bhí sé mar cheanncheathrú acu. Is as seo a léadh an forfhógra an lá céanna. Ba iad Tomás Ó Cléirigh, Seán Mac Diarmada, Pádraig Mac Piarais, Séamas Ó Conghaile, Tomás Mac Donnchadha, Éamon Ceannt agus Ióseph Ó Pluingcéad na sínitheoirí. Leagtar na haidhmeanna amach ann, ní amháin saoirse ó riail na Breataine, ach Éire a chruthú ina mbeadh na daoine go léir saor chun a lán-acmhainn a bhaint amach beag beann ar shaibhreas, aicme nó creideamh.

Ghlac na ceannaircí seilbh ar fhoirgnimh straitéiseacha eile i mBaile Átha Cliath freisin, ar nós na Ceithre Chúirt, Bácús Boland, Monarcha Jacob’s, Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá agus South Dublin Union. Cé gur tharla an chuid is mó den ghníomhaíocht i mBaile Átha Cliath, tháinig líon suntasach Óglach amach i Lú, Loch Garman, Gaillimh agus Cill Déagláin.

Mhair an troid ar feadh seachtaine agus maraíodh os cionn 250 sibhialach, 130 comhalta d’fhórsaí na corónach agus os cionn 60 ceannairceach mar thoradh air.In iarracht aon dhoirteadh fola eile a chosc, d’fhógair an Piarsach géilleadh gan choinníoll ina ndúirt sé: “Chun tuilleadh sléachta ar an bpobal sibhialta a chosc agus i ndóchas go sábhálfar saol ár lucht leanúna, tá sé socraithe ag comhaltaí an Rialtais Shealadaigh atá i láthair ag an gceanncheathrú géilleadh gan chomha, agus ordóidh ceannfoirt nó oifigigh atá i gceannas ar dhúichí do na daoine atá faoina gceannas a gcuid arm a leagan uathu. Pádraig Mac Piarais, Baile Átha Cliath an 30ú Aibreán 1916.” [Aistriúchán ar an mbunscríbhinn i nBéarla]

Mháirseáil go leor aonad de chuid na nÓglach in eagar chun a n-airm a leagan uathu.

Caithfear a rá nach raibh bá an phobail ar thaobh na gceannairceach ar dtús báire, mar gheall ar easpa tuisceana ar an gcuspóir, chomh maith le daoine a bheith ag fáil bháis; an t-ár agus an doirteadh fola. D’athraigh sé sin go tapaidh, áfach.

The Seven SignatoriesAn Seachtar Sínitheoirí

The Proclamation of the Irish Republic was signed on April 24 1916 by seven men from all walks of life. Read more about the Seven Signatories who each played an integral part in the Rising. Ranging in age from 29 to 59, the Proclamation Signatories were relatively unknown to the Irish public but they were representative of various strands of Irish nationalism and the Gaelic Revival.

Rinne seachtar fear as gach aicme den tsochaí Forógra Phoblacht na hÉireann a shíniú ar an 24 Aibreán 1916. Léigh tuilleadh faoin Seachtar Sínitheoirí a raibh páirt lárnach ag gach duine acu san Éirí Amach.