1916 Easter Rising Essays

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Though the uprising itself had been unpopular with most of the Irish people, these executions excited a wave of revulsion against the British authorities and turned the dead republican leaders into martyred heroes.Eoin Mac Neill, the leader of the Irish Volunteers, therefore canceled mobilization orders for the insurgents, but Pearse and Clarke went ahead with about 1,560 Irish Volunteers and a 200-man contingent of the Citizen Army.On April 24 their forces seized the Dublin General Post Office and other strategic points in Dublin’s city centre, and Pearse read aloud a proclamation announcing the birth of the Irish republic.The analogy may seem to falter because the Rising is not a book, but rather, as the grander plaque inside the GPO states, a historical act that “asserted in arms Ireland’s right to freedom” — it involved actual lives and actual deaths: of combatants on both sides, of civilians, and, ultimately, by firing squad, of the leaders themselves.But the Rising, as we will see, had a forceful aesthetic dimension.The explanations on the 1916 plaques are bilingual.Here is where Tom Clarke, the veteran Fenian (revolutionary nationalist) and first signatory of the Proclamation of the Republic, had his tobacco shop.During the long day of the southern arms landing, British soldiers shot dead several Dubliners.It looked as if (to use Shaw’s trope for Anglo-Irish relations) John Bull would be preoccupied for quite some time with his “other island.” Writing about the July crisis, Townshend makes an arresting statement: Beyond doubt, this had been noticed in Berlin as well, where it must have encouraged the German General Staff in the course it had already adopted, of forcing a showdown with the Entente powers.But in running these guns, the IV was playing catch-up to its northern counterpart, the Ulster Volunteer Force, which had been formed by Unionists in order to resist Home Rule; the UVF had brought in a much larger cache of German arms earlier in the year.In the summer of 1914, Ireland was on the verge of civil war, with sparks flying perilously close to the powder keg.

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