The Easter Uprising of 1916

On the 24th of April 1916, the streets of Dublin saw six days of bitter fighting between Irish nationalists and the British Army. The issue around Home Rule in Ireland had been a political topic for many years, particularly leading up to the First World War. Home Rule would provide Ireland with a limited degree of self-government, and was proposed by the British Government for implementation depending on the outcome of WWI.[1] It would see an Irish parliament that would deal with, and be responsible for, Irish domestic issues.  Then, the British parliament in Westminster would retain control over foreign affairs, defence, taxation and overseas trade.[2] This would give Ireland more say over the country and how it was governed, but it would still remain part of the UK. Home Rule sparked the formation of groups such as the Ulster Volunteer Force, who were opposed to it due to the fact that it was believed by many that an Irish parliament would be dominated by Catholics, and groups such as the UVF were mainly protestant in membership.[3] Other groups, such as the Irish Volunteers, were in support. They believed that it was a chance for Ireland to at least gain some control over the country, rather than power being solely in the hands of the British government. Then, with the uprising and the use of violence and force, and all-Irish republic could be achieved.

Three main groups were involved in the Easter Uprising. The Irish Republican Brotherhood (headed by Thomas Clarke and Seán Mac Diarmada), the Irish Volunteers (a military group formed in 1913) and the Irish Citizen Army, (a socialist militia led by James Connolly). 200 women were also involved from the ‘League of Women’.[4] The main purpose and spark of the rising fell into the wider, and more traditional notion within Ireland that ‘England’s difficulty was Ireland’s opportunity’.[5] It was also to combat what many saw as a decline in Irish nationalism, which was reflected by support of the Irish Parliamentary Party and the British war effort.

So, at 11 am on Easter Monday, the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army met at pre-arranged points around Dublin. They planned to take key buildings under their control around the city centre. Places such as the General Post Office, Jacob’s Factory and the College of Surgeons were taken with ease, and these buildings were quickly made defensible by the rebels who sought to keep hold of them for as long as possible.[6] The British military onslaught ‘which the rebels had anticipated, did not at first materialise’.[7] The officials only had around 400 troops to deal with around 1,000 insurgents at the start and they therefore quickly began building volunteers and reinforcing areas of the city. The Irish Republican Brotherhood, who formed the major part of the uprising, were supported and armed by guns that had been shipped in to Ireland from Germany in 1914.[8] This German support was, again, likely to add ‘insult to injury’ as it were for the British, who were of course at war with Germany at the time and therefore enemies in every way. This sign of Irish alliance made their position towards Britain clear.

Whilst fighting was harsh, and there were numerous deaths of both British military and Irish rebels (and many innocent civilians), it quickly became clear the officials had been able to deal with the uprising and amass the numbers needed. By Friday 28th of April, 1,600 rebels faced around 18-20,000 soldiers.[9] The rebellion also faced the issue of failing to meet its initial reach and audience. What was intended to be a nationwide event for the Irish cause, quickly became confined to Dublin.[10] Poor planning, communication and British resistance proved to much for the Easter Uprising.

Rebels therefore surrendered on April 29th after a strong British artillery bombardment. Leaders such as Pearse and 14 others were court-martialled and executed by British authorities. Whilst support for the rebellion was not huge at first, the executions actually lead to further support in its aftermath. It made the British look hostile and extreme in their actions and turned the dead leaders into political martyrs for many. The event also signalled the start of the republican revolution in Ireland.[11] The rebellion saw 450 lives lost, saw 2,614 injured and 9 go missing.[12] The event also caused the spiral that was to become further Anglo-Irish conflict in the fight for independence.

Image Retrieved from and credited: https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/07/hundred-years-after-1916-easter-rising-history-wars-ireland-still-rage.


[1] Jones, H. (HistoryExtra). (2019). The Easter Rising: When Ireland went to war. Retrieved from https://www.historyextra.com/period/first-world-war/easter-rising-irish-nationalists-against-british-rule-dublin/.

[2] Jones, H. (HistoryExtra). (2019).

[3] Jones, H. (HistoryExtra). (2019).

[4] BBC. (2016). Easter Rising 1916: Six days of armed struggle that changed Irish and British history. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-35873316.

[5] BBC. (2016).

[6] BBC. (2014). The Easter Rising. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/easterrising/insurrection/in03.shtml.

[7] BBC. (2014).

[8] Britannica. (2020). Easter Rising: Irish history. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Michael-Collins-Irish-statesman.

[9] BBC. (2014).

[10] Britannica. (2020).

[11] Britannica. (2020).

[12] BBC. (2014).

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