World War I: Ireland--The Easter Rising (April 1916)


Figure 1.--A great deal of damage occurred to the Dublin city center during the 5-day Easter Rising. This is the Post Office which was the scene of the heaviest fighting. The Rusing abd the British reaction dramatically changed the political situation in Ireland.

The Easter Rebellion was staged in Dublin (1916). Irish Nationalists like most Europeans had thought the War would quickly be over, at which time the question of home rule could be taken up again. When the War continued throughout 1915 and into 1916, it was clear that the War could continue for some time. The Irish Republican Brotherhood and the splinter IVF decided to tak a bold action against against British rule in Ireland. They planned to take advantage of the fact that the British Army as in France with only a small force in Ireland. The Easter Rising was mastermined by Patrick Pearse, Thomas MacDonagh, and Joseph Plunkett. Roger Casement was to obtain German weapons. The British intercepted the weapons, but the Rising occurred as planned on Easter Monday (April 24, 1916). Although unsuccessful it was the first action that would eventually lead to Irish independence after the War. The British quickly put it dowm. Almost 100 men were shot after nominal trials. One leader they failed to shoot was Michael Collins. The British wrongly blamed Sinn Féin for the rising (it had actually been the Irish Republican Brotherhood). Some authors believe that the ferocity in which the rising was supressed and the executions doomed the British presence in Ireland. It may well have been the case that even if the British has reacted more moderately that in the ens it would have made little difference.

The War Continues

Irish Nationalists like most Europeans had thought the War would quickly be over. They planned to take up the question of home rule after a few months delay caused by the War. again. When the War continued throughout 1915 and into 1916, it was clear that the War could continue for some time. Some nationalists were not prepared to put home rule on hild for years.

Planning

The Irish Republican Brotherhood and the splinter IVF decided to tak a bold action against against British rule in Ireland. They decided to take advantage of the fact that the British Army as in France with only a small force in Ireland. The Easter Rising was mastermined by Patrick Pearse, Thomas MacDonagh, and Joseph Plunkett. Roger Casement was to obtain German weapons.

The Rebellion

The Easter Rebellion was staged in Dublin. The British intercepted the weapons sent by the Germans, but the Rising occurred as planned on Easter Monday (April 24, 1916). About 1,500 men participated. The lightly armed Rebels seized Dublin Post Office and other key buildings. The Post Office was important because it included the telegraph office making it an important communications center in the days before radio and television. The Rebels raised an Irish flag and read a proclamation which declared Ireland to be an independent Republic. The British quickly reacted. Fighting continued for 5 days. The British brought in machine guns and artillery. Finally with 450 men killed, the Rebels surrendered (April 29). A great deal of damage occurred in the city center where the fighting took place. The initial reaction in Dublin itself was hostile to the Rebels, in large part because of all the damage done.

British Reaction

The British decided to try the leaders for treason and collaboration. Britain at the time of course was at war with Germany. The British imprisoned the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising at Kilmainham Gaol. They shot about 100 men after nominal trials. One leader they failed to shoot was Michael Collins. The British wrongly blamed Sinn Féin for the rising (it had actually been the Irish Republican Brotherhood).

Impact

Although the Easter Rebellion was unsuccessful it was the first action that would eventually lead to Irish independence after the War. Some authors believe that the ferocity in which the rising was supressed, especially the executions doomed the British presence in Ireland. Public opinion soon changed sharply against the British. The chaning in opinion contributed to the Home Rule Party's defeats and Sinn Féin's success in the next election. It may well have been the case, however, that even if the British has reacted more moderately that in the ens it would have made little difference.

Sinn Fein

Eamonn de Valera had participatedv in the Easter Rebellion. He like Collins had been amomg the prisioners taken, but neither were executed. De Valera became the President of Sinn Fein (July 1917). De Valeran stood in the Clare East by-election. He openly stated his support in an Independent Irish Republic. He won by a large majority. He refused to take his seat at Westminster because Sinn Fein was committed to independence. It was the British in large measure that made Sinn Fein. The British blamedcthen for the Rebellion and as a result the Part became popular with Irish voters. Sinn Féin also led the fight against conscription in Ireland. Britain was the only important European power not to have military conscription. It initially fought the War with a volunteer army. The dimensions of the War and the guge casualties eventually required the British to introduce conscription (1916).

Post-War Political Situation

An Anglo-American offensive finally defeated Germany (1918). Sein Fein was now the dominant political part in Ireland. The elections confirmed this and were a Sinn Fein sweep. Sinn Fein carried 73 seats, while the previously dominant Home Rule Party held only 6 seats. The Irish Unionist Party won 26 seats, almost all in yje Protestat north--Ulster. All the new Sinn Féin MPs refused to take their seats in Westminster. Rather they met in an extra-legal Parliament in Dublin which they named the Dail Eireann. They met January 21, 1919. It had no real power, but made a vert real political point. The Home Rule and Unionist parties did not join them.







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Created: 4:46 AM 5/15/2006
Last updated: 2:47 AM 2/6/2010