The Irish Easter Rising – 1916

By Cian Costello, Year 12

The Irish easter rising is often overlooked, but it is the event that really sparked the end of British rule in Ireland and the beginning of the Republic of Ireland. I’m going to do my best to make this interesting; nothing like a boring history lesson. It’s alright if you know nothing about Irish history – this is a great place to start!

On the 24th of April 1916, Easter Monday, a seven-man military council plotted an uprising and tried to gather people in the capital, Dublin. Led by James Connolly, the Irish citizen army (not really an army, more of a small group of volunteers that called themselves an army) joined small groups and 200 women of a paramilitary organisation called “Cumann na mBan”. These people were led by a group of 7: James Connolly (the same one), Patrick Pearse – a teacher – and 5 nationalists and Irish activists.

It’s important to note that, in 1916, the British were in the middle of WWI, so the timing for this uprising is perfect so to say. The intention was that they would wait until the British forces in Ireland would leave so that the uprising would have more impact, and this succeeded in a way; the group seized key places in Dublin, and had headquarters in the GPO (general post office- at that time, the building was a lot more than just a post office, as it was one of the only places for means of communication with phones and radio).

Positions held by Rebel and British forces in Dublin


Thanks to great planning, the rebels were able to avoid detection until after the rebellion was successful. They caught the British by surprise and took many captive, wanting to avoid unnecessary killing, as several were Irish turned British army, although three unarmed police officers were shot on O’Connell street, so all the police withdrew, which caused a large number of people to start looting the city. A total of 425 people were arrested for looting that day alone.

On Tuesday, many British soldiers had already arrived and started to take back a few positions in the city. The rebels had to retreat from many areas because of their limited numbers. On Wednesday morning, hundreds of British soldiers encircled the Medicity Institute. There were 29 rebels in the building, and they were ordered to hold the position for a few hours, but due to the situation, they held the position for three days. They were eventually forced to surrender after putting up an incredibly stiff resistance. They were the first to surrender in the whole uprising.

From Tuesday on, things got progressively worse for the Irish. More and more British were arriving, and every outpost was being encircled. The biggest fight was put up at the GPO, were in 4 days, the British had only advanced 140m. Sadly, the rebels were forced to surrender on the Saturday evening. Due to frustration and outrage, the British had broken into civilian houses and murdered civilians, accusing them of being rebels. This would later be very controversial. On Sunday, the easter rising officially came to a close as all rebels had surrendered.

The British responded by executing 16 of the rebels; all the leaders and others. The executions made the hatred for the British grow throughout the country and the support for the rebels grow. In the 3 years that followed, the support for independence grew, and in 1919, Ireland adopted the declaration of independence.

In the 6 days of the rising, there were 485 deaths. 82 (16%) were Irish rebels – 64 of those were volunteers, 126 (26%) were British forces, and 260 (54%) were civilians. To this day, the Irish still express gratitude for those who partook in the Easter Rising of 1916.

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