Saturday, 26 March 2016
This Easter marks the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter rising in Dublin against British imperialist rule. It actually began on 24 April 1916 and lasted for six short but bloody days, resulting in the deaths of over 300 civilian casualties, but is marked a month early to symbolically connect it with Easter.
This uprising marks one of the most defining moments of the struggle for Irish independence, which began with reading of the proclamation Poblach na h -Eireann byPatrick Pearce, a radical document that called for the establishment of a republic, which ' represented of the whole people of Ireland and elected by the suffrages of all her men and women." and "the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland."
It occured at the height of the First World War, rebel leaders feeling the need to rise the people up, while England was at it;s weakest point. At the time this did not arouse much sympathy because many Irish men, were already fighting and dying on foreign lands, for their current King and country. Nevetheless many rallied to the cause, the insugents numbering to over 1,200 men and women.Barricades across the capital city of Dublin sprung up with rebels taking over strategic landmarks.
Over the course of the rising the British deployed over 16,000 troops to brutally suppress it, but the rebels bravely resisted, but it would lead to about 450 civilan casualties being killed and over 2,000 wounded. The rebels headguartees at the GPO would be blasted into surrender,which Patrick Pearce ordered on the 29th of April.
GPO headquarters in ruins after failed uprising
One of the self styled commaders in chief of the rebel forces was James Connolly, a revolutionary socialist actually born in Scotland, who not only dedicated himself to the cause of Irish liberation but alsoto that of international socialism, active also within the radical syndicalist union known as the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). On the 12th ofMay he would be satin a chair and shot by firing squad along with other leaders of the uprising, numbering 16 in all , which included Patrick Pearce. He was to weak to stand on his own because his body was too battered from wounds received in the uprising.
Pictured :- James Connolly
It should be noted that at the time the rising had little support from the Irish people, no popular mandate, but because of its brutal suppresion and the martyrdom of its leaders it sparked the flame of Irish republicanism, that would launch a mass rebellion that would lead to the creation of an Irish republic. The rising subsequentlly struck a blow against the idea of empire and imperialism, beginning a path repeated across the British Empire as the 20th century progressed, as Edward Said noted " a model of 20th century wars of liberation." Connolly is now rightly celebrated as one of the fathers of the Irish nation that we see now.
After the rising over 3,000 peopke were arrested many with no actual connection with the uprising and over 1,800 imprisoned. This would also start a wave of support that would lead to independence.
Many were to be interned in Frongech Prison Camp here in Gwynedd, Wales, near Bala, which would aid the rebles cause further because collectively they found solidarity, in what has become known as the university of revolution, seeds of further rebellion were sown, in the hearts and minds of some who had not previously considered this path.
In 1920, after the failed uprising Britain would sign a disputed treaty creating two governments- one in Belfast with jurisdiction over 6 counties and the other in Dublin which had authority over the others. It was not until 1949 that the state of Ireland explicitly became a republic, an independent nation.
The 1916 rising remains a seminal event of 20th centurty history and is celebrated because it gave rise to a birth of a nation. It still holds great significance because it has continued to be both a source of pride, division and controversy across this Island ever since, as some believe there is still unfinished business.
This Easter Sunday will herald synchronised wreath laying ceremonies at strategic points across Dublin and the Republic of Ireland in what will be an unashamed celebration of the birth of the Irish republic, one hopefully of unity instead of division. A moment of a people's pride.