Easter Rising is famous for being the event that brought Irish republicanism to the forefront in the politics of the country, which ultimately led to the Irish War of Independence. Here are 10 interesting facts about one of the most important events in the history of Ireland.
#1 Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) was responsible for the Easter Rising
The Acts of Union 1800 united the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Irish Parliament was abolished and Ireland was given representation in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Ever since then many Irish nationalists had opposed the union. In 1858, the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) was formed which was a secret organisation dedicated to the establishment of an “independent democratic republic” in Ireland. It was IRB which staged the Easter Rising in 1916.
#2 The Irish Volunteers, Irish Citizen Army and Cumann na mBan were also involved
In 1913, the Irish Volunteers was formed, which was a military organisation whose primary aim was “to secure and maintain the rights and liberties common to the whole people of Ireland”. The same year another military group named Irish Citizen Army was formed. The outbreak of World War I in August 1914 led to the splitting of Irish Volunteers. The majority formed the National Volunteers (175,000 members) and joined the British Army leaving the Irish Volunteers with only around 13,500 members. Apart from IRB, Irish Volunteers and Irish Citizen Army, Cumann na mBan, an Irish republican women’s paramilitary organisation, also participated in the Easter Rising.
#3 Easter Rising was solely planned by 7 men of the Military Council of IRB
After the First World War began, the IRB decided to stage a rising before the war ended to establish an independent Irish Republic. The war would put pressure on UK; and Germany could help them to achieve their goal. Tom Clarke and Sean Mac Diarmada of IRB took the responsibility to plan the rising. They formed a Military Council. Apart from the two men it consisted of high-ranking members of the Irish Volunteers: Joseph Plunkett, Éamonn Ceannt, and Patrick Pearse; head of the Irish Citizen Army: James Connolly; and Thomas MacDonagh of the Irish Volunteers who joined weeks before the rising took place.
#4 It was adversely affected due to failure of a plan involving Germany
The Germans didn’t support the rising fully but agreed to send a large importation of arms. It was to be delivered on 21 April 1916 but was intercepted by the Royal Navy of U.K. Due to this incident the Rising, which was originally planned for Easter Sunday, April 23, 1916, had to be postponed by a day. A countermanding order by Eoin MacNeill, head of the Irish Volunteers, also added to the confusion which resulted in many volunteers missing the Rising on Monday.
#5 Easter Rising started with capture of strategically important buildings in Dublin
On the morning of April 24, roughly 1,200 Irish Volunteers and Citizen Army members took over strongpoints in Dublin city including the General Post Office (GPO), the Four Courts, Jacob’s Factory, Boland’s Mill, the South Dublin Union, St. Stephen’s Green, and the College of Surgeons. They made the GPO their military headquarters with five of the seven members of the Military Council stationed there. The British Union Flag was replaced with the new flag of the republic.
#6 The Proclamation of the Irish Republic was issued at the start of the Rising
Member of the Military Council, Patrick Pearse, read the Proclamation of the Irish Republic to a small crowd at the steps of Dublin’s GPO. It proclaimed Ireland’s independence from U.K. and made several promises including a commitment to universal suffrage (which was practised only in a handful of countries at the time, not including Britain); gender equality (Irish women under British law were not allowed to vote) and that the form of government was to be a republic. The Military Council claimed to be “Provisional Government of the Irish Republic” with Pearse as President.
#7 The Easter Rising lasted for 6 days
The British were caught completely unprepared by the rebellion. They had only 400 troops and so they waited for the reinforcements to arrive. Over the following week, the British deployed over 16,000 troops, artillery and naval gunboat into the city to suppress the rising. Defeat being apparent and to prevent further loss of civilian life, Pearse surrendered unconditionally on 29 April to Brigadier-General Lowe, who led the British troops. He also issued an order for all companies to surrender.
#8 Around 400 people were killed and 2500 wounded during the Easter Rising
Apart from Dublin, there were also risings in county Galway, Enniscorthy in Wexford and Ashbourne in county Meath. However the rebels there were poorly armed due to the failure to secure arms from Germany and hence there was little fighting outside Dublin. The Irish rebels suffered 64 casualties during the course of the Rising while 132 British officers were killed. As the fighting took place in densely populated areas, over 200 civilians died and more than 2000 were wounded.
#9 All the members of the Military Council were executed
Irish who were centrally involved in the Rising, including all those who were part of the Military Council, were executed following a series of courts martial beginning on 2 May. Initially Ireland was mostly ambivalent and even hostile towards the rebels perhaps because of the civilian casualties or due to the fact that there were many whose relatives were fighting for U.K. in the war and hence considered the Rising as treachery. But Britain’s reaction to the Rising swayed the Irish nationalist opinion in favour of the rebels who were then considered as heroes.
#10 Easter Rising was a critical event leading to the Irish War of Independence
After the Easter Rising, republicans, some who had even participated in the Rising, came together under the political party Sinn Féin. In the 1918 general election to the British Parliament, Sinn Féin won 73 of Ireland’s 105 seats. On 21 January 1919 they declared the independence of the Irish Republic. Later that same day the Irish War of Independence began which ultimately led to the creation of the Irish Free State. Some of the survivors of the Easter Rising went on to become leaders of the independent Irish state.
W.B. Yeats’ Easter, 1916
Between May and September 1916, the famous Irish poet William Butler Yeats wrote the poem Easter, 1916. First published in 1921, it describes Yeats’ torn emotions regarding the events of the Easter Rising and commemorates the fallen revolutionaries. While Yeats was against violence as means to achieve Irish independence, he was shocked at the executions of the revolutionaries and understood their contribution to the greater national cause.