Thursday, 31 March 2016

People of the Easter Rising Illustration

There were three major forces that fought in the Easter Rising on the Irish side; the Irish Citizen Army, the Irish Volunteers and Cumann na mBan. I had only had time for two illustrations of the groups in the 1916 Easter Rising, the latter two. Two of these forces were quite closely related, the Irish Volunteers and Cumann na mBan, kind of male and female sides of the same coin. While the Irish Citizen army were a socialist armed force, originally created to protect workers from police after the Dublin Lockout of 1913. 

Irish Volunteers

After the Ulster Volunteer Force was created in the north to protect the Ulster Protestants from Home Rule (which they believed Home Rule was Rome Rule), the rest of Ireland took a leaf from their book and created the Irish Volunteers. In the case of the Volunteers though they were created to defend Home Rule from possible British aggression rather than oppose. They were started in 1913, originally just training with sticks, they eventually became armed when they smuggled guns into the country in 1914 from Germany, shortly before the breakout of World War I. They were a huge organisation, with close to 200,000 members at their peak. When WWI started, the irish Home Rule party in Westminster supported Britain in the War in return for a promise of Home Rule when the war ended, so most of the 200K Volunteers went to fight for Britain because of it.

But a section of it decided to stay home and not fight for Britain. It was part of that element that made up the bulk of the forces on the  Irish side in 1916, probably only around 1,000 or so members, though there was only about 1,400 in total on the rebel side. They were involved in alot of the key fighting, the most bloody of the battles in Mount Street Bridge, where a handful of Volunteers (17 I think) held off thousands of British soldiers for a day in a tiny area. It was this battle that was to have half of the total of British dead in the Rising, as the British command used the same idiotic tactics as they did in the trenches, sending wave after wave of poor soldier at the enemy, in highly exposed positions as the rebels fired down on them from the protection of the houses.

Cumann na mBan

Setup in 1914, they were very much the female side of the Irish Volunteers, and played a key part in the Easter Rising.  For many women, they saw the rising as an opportunity to win equal rights in a new country, away from the oppression of women in the British Empire. During the rising the Cumann na mBan mostly didnt take part in any of the direct fighting, instead played a supporting role like running messages, tending the wounded etc.

It was in the Irish Citizen Army, that women actually fought in the Rising, mostly under Countess Markievicz in St Stephens green, with Connolly (leader of the Irish Citizen Army) believing alot more in the equality of women than many others. Here women as well as men took up positions in the park. Unfortunatley, showing the lack of military know how of the leaders of the Rising,the park was dreadfully exposed and allowed the British to take over buildings around the park and fire directly down on their exposed positions, kind of the opposite of Mount Street Bridge battle. Eventually they had to retreat to the College of Surgeons nearby and stuck it out there for a few days.  It was Countess Markievicz who was to take over Cumann na mBan after the Rising and revitalise it a new in the following years.

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