The Easter Rising was an unsuccessful rebellion staged in Ireland against British rule in April 1916. The rebellion marked the most famous attempt by militant republicans to seize control of Ireland and force independence from the United Kingdom. The Irish Republican revolutionary attempt occurred from April 24 to April 30, 1916, in which a part of the Irish Volunteers led by school teacher and barrister Padraig Pearse and the smaller Irish Citizen Army of James Connolly seized key locations in Dublin and proclaimed an Irish Republic independent of Britain. The event is seen as an key point on the road to Irish independence.

Easter Proclamation
read by Pearse outside the GPO at the start of the Easter Rising, 1916

The Rising

The Rising marked a split between Republicanism and mainstream Irish nationalism, which had hitherto accepted a promise of postwar autonomy under the British crown, enshrined in the Third Home Rule Act, which had been enacted in 1914, just before the start of World War One. The bulk of the Volunteers (a force set up in November 1913 in support if the aims of the Irish Nationalist Party) had been ordered not to take part in any actions following the British interception (April 21) of an arms delivery from Germany and the arrest of the revolutionaries' emissary, Sir Roger Casement.

Outnumbered by some 4500 British troops and 1000 police (the insurgent Volunteers are estimated at about 1000 and the ICA at only 250), and with little public support at the time, the rebels were shelled into submission: hundreds were killed and wounded, including civilians caught in the crossfire, some 3000 suspects were arrested and 15 leaders (including all seven signatories of the independence proclamation) were executed (May 3-12), among them the already mortally wounded Connolly, shot in a chair because he was unable to stand. At the time the executions were demanded in motions passed in Irish local authorities and by many newspapers, including the Irish Independent in an editorial.

Infiltrating Sinn Féin

The executions marked the beginning in a change in Irish opinion, much of which had until now seen the rebels as irresponsible adventurists whose actions were likely to harm the nationalist cause. As freed detainees reorganised the Republican forces, nationalist sentiment slowly began to swing behind the hitherto small monarchist Sinn Féin party, ironically not itself involved in the uprising, but which the British government and Irish media wrongly blamed for being behind the Rising. The surviving Rising leaders, under Eamon de Valera, infiltrated Sinn Féin and deposed its previous monarchist leadership under Arthur Griffith, who had founded the party in 1905 to campaign for an Anglo-Irish dual monarchy. Sinn Féin and the Irish Parliamentary Party fought a series of inconclusive battles, with each winning by-elections, until the Conscription Crisis of 1918 (when Britain tried to force conscription on Ireland) swung public opinion behind Sinn Féin.

1918 General Election

The general elections to the British Parliament in December 1918 resulted in a Sinn Fein landslide in Ireland (though most of seats were uncontested), most of whose MP's gathered in Dublin to proclaim the Irish Republic (January 21, 1919) under the President of Dáil Éireann, Eamon de Valera (who as commandant of the Volunteers' 3rd Battalion had escaped execution in 1916 through luck. (His physical location away from the other prisoners prevented his immediate execution, while his American citizenship led to a delay while the legal situation was clarified. By the time a decision was taken to execute him, all executions had been halted, luckily for him as he was top of the executions list!)

Longterm Impact

The Rising is generally seen as having been doomed to military defeat from the outset, and to have been understood as such by its leaders: critics have seen in it elements of a "blood sacrifice" in line with some of the romantically-inclined Pearse's writings. Though the precursor to Irish statehood, it did nothing to reassure Protestant unionists in Ireland. Through treated as an important stage in Ireland's historical development, neither the modern-day Republic of Ireland nor the vast majority of its citizenry treat it as the starting date of independence. Until the 1970s, the Irish state commemorated the Easter Rising with a major military parade through Dublin. Those parades have been discontinued. Current taoiseach (prime minister) and leader of de Valera's Fianna Fáil, Bertie Ahern has publicly dated Irish independence not to 1916 (or 1919 and the First Dáil) but to 1922, when the Irish Free State came into being as a result of the Anglo-Irish Treaty signed between Irish delegates and the British government in 1921.

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