We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse-
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly.
A terrible beauty is born.
-W.B. Yeats Easter, 1916
Since the coming of Cambro-Norman mercenaries under Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, nicknamed Strongbow, in 1169 there have been numerous attempts by the Irish to reestablish themselves with Home Rule. Perhaps two of the most well known rebellions are the Rebellion of 1798 and the Easter Rising 1916, both of which failed.
Today marks the 97th anniversary of the unconditional surrender of the leaders of the 1916 Uprising. After four days of fighting and bombardments, the leaders of the Easter Rising decided to lay down their arms to avoid further civilian deaths. “At 3.30pm Pearse handed General Lowe his sword and wrote the surrender order.” The surrender order read:
“In order to prevent the further slaughter of Dublin citizens, and in the hope of saving the lives of our followers now surrounded and hopelessly outnumbered, the members of the Provisional Government present at headquarters have agreed to an unconditional surrender, and the commandants of the various districts in the City and County will order their commands to lay down arms.”
What makes this particular uprising so significant is that the leaders and soldiers knew that it had virtually no chance of immediate victory and freeing Ireland from British rule. Instead they saw it as a powerful symbolic gesture to help spur the Irish social conscience into a further rebellion that would perhaps than lead to Home Rule for Ireland.
In this there was success.
For, it was the failed Easter Rising that swayed the populace into voting in the 1918 General Election that would give Sinn Fein a landslide victory, hence, allowing the Declaration of Independence and the War of Independence, 1919-1922. The connection to the Easter Rising is seen because too many of the Irish Republicans, including Michael Collins, the War of Independence truly started with Padraig Pearse’s reading The Proclamation on the steps of the General Post Office in 1916. Moreover, many of the leaders of the War of Independence were also involved in the Easter Rising itself.
At the end, the Rising cost 450 persons killed, 2,614 injured, and nine missing. Military casualties were 116 dead, 368 wounded and nine missing. The Irish and Dublin police forces had 16 killed and 29 wounded, and a total of 254 civilians died. Sixty-four rebels lost their lives (Easter 1916.net). The following leaders were executed by firing squads and thrown into a mass grave: Patrick Pearse, Thomas MacDonagh, Thomas J. Clarke, Joseph Plunkett, William Pearse, Edward Daly and Michael O'Hanrahan, John MacBride, Eamonn Ceannt, Michael Mallin, Sean Heuston, Conn Colbert, James Connolly (who was shot while tied to a chair because he could not stand due to his injuries) and Sean MacDiarmada.
It was the treatment and execution of these leaders that is said to have swayed public opinion and created more social awareness of this group’s goals and desires. It also angered much of the Irish populace, many of whom showed no support during the actual uprising.
Ninety-seven years later, the bullet holes in the front of the General Post Office still exists as evidence of the turmoil of 1916. Next to the Post Office is No 16 Moore Street, the building where the leaders met for the last time. However, while it should be a National Monument, today it is at risk of being redeveloped. Thankfully, there has been a great push to save this historic building. To learn more about the fight to save No 16 Moore Street click here.
Likewise, to learn more of the Easter Rising 1916 click here. Or you can read the following books:
1916: The Easter Rising by Tim Pat Coogan
1916 by Morgan Llywelyn
Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion by Charles Townshend
Letters from Dublin Easter 1916 by Sally Warwick-Haller (Editor), Adrian Warwick-Haller (Editor)
The Rising: Ireland: Easter 1916 by Fearghal McGarry
The Rising of the Moon by William Martin
Myths and Memories of the Easter Rising: Cultural and Political Nationalism in Ireland by Jonathan Githens-Mayer
Stephen Mc Sweeney is a high school English/Drama teacher. Besides writing for the Celtic MP3s Music Magazine, he enjoys acting, writing and playing Celtic music. He can be seen as one of the members of the band Terrible Musicians, where he plays percussion and mandolin.