Sunday, 27 March 2016

The Battle that awoke a Nation

Easter Monday, Dublin GPO 1916

"All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born."

The well known above quote by WB Yeats about the Easter Rising of 1916  hits the nail on the head. On Easter Monday, 100 years ago, everything was about to change when Patrick Pearse, one of the leaders of the 1916 rising, stepped out before the GPO in Dublin and read aloud the proclamation of the Irish Republic:

"IRISHMAN AND IRISHWOMEN: In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom."

It was to be one of the seminal moments in Irish history and one that marked the beginning of the war of independence in Ireland. In other words, something worth commemorating with an Easter Rising 1916 Illustration!

To give a very brief account of the Rising (I mean super brief!), it mostly occurred in Dublin city where a group of idealistic Irish men and women took over key parts of Dublin city. Their aim, to inspire the rest of the country to rise and from the rising to create an ideal country for all, one where both men and women were equal as well as all those of every religion.  Unfortunately for them, they were more idealists than military men, some being poets, teachers etc. After 6 days of intense fighting on the streets of Dublin, there was no hope of victory as the British had shipped in thousands of reinforcements from Britain to quell the rebellion, I believe something in the region of 16,000 soldiers, which massively outnumbered the small band of Irish Rebels, something around 1,500.  Also only parts of the rest of the country ever rose (as another part of the rebellions leadership, specifically Eoin MacNeill, disagreed with the rebellion happening then and countermanded the order to rise, so many did not come out) and so they were eventually defeated.

Its ironic but it was the British heavy handed reaction to the rising that cemented into an inspiration it was to become. With General Lowe, the general in charge of British forces giving the order to take no prisoners, which encouraged some angry English soldiers to shoot civilians and surrendered combatants. And the general shipped in to deal with the defeated rebels, Maxwell, blundered and executed the leaders, turning the leaders into the inspiration they had aimed for, those martyrs who died for their ideal Ireland. In fairness to the British army though, these were men more used and trained to fight in WWI France than an urban rebellion, which required more delicate handling.

In summary though, these events turned the rising into a shinning symbol of national herocism for many, a sacrifice to awake a nation.  Which it helped to achieve, as soon after public opinion sharply turned away from home rule through peaceful means to that of complete independence through the use of force, and so the rising was the first real steps of the Irish war of Independence.

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