Early in 1914 the Carsonite Volunteers, with the connivance of British sympathisers in high places, ran a big cargo of arms ashore at Larne. Forthwith the British Government prohibited the importation of rams into Ireland, lest the Nationalists should secure weapons too. The Irish Volunteers thus organised an illegal shipment of arms to Howth from the Continent. A rising had been planned for Easter Sunday. But on Easter Monday, soon after noon, the Irish Republic was proclaimed in Dublin, and the insurgent Tricolour suddenly broke on startled eyes from the flagstaff above the General Post Office in the heart of the Irish capital. The Easter Monday Rising, however, had no such military prospects of success. There was always, of course, the chance that a German success on the Western Front would break Englands defences and allow substantial help to be sent before the Rising was crushed, but this proved a vain hope. On the morning of Easter Monday, April 24th 1916, the Dublin battalions paraded, bearing full arms and one days rations. Shortly after noon, the General Post Office, the Four Courts, three of the railway termini, and other important points circling the centre of Dublin were rushed and occupied. The Proclamation of the Irish Republic was published in big placards :
Poblacht na hEireann
The Provisional Government of the Irish Republic
To the People of Ireland
Irishmen and Irishwomen ! In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives the old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag, and strikes for her freedom …….
We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible……In every generation the Irish people have asserted their right to National freedom and sovereignty; six times during the past three hundred years they have asserted it in arms. Standing on that fundamental right and again asserting it in arms in the face of the world, we hereby proclaim the Irish Republic as a Sovereign Independent Sate, and we pledge our lives and the lives of our comrades to the cause of its freedom, of its welfare, and of its exaltation among the nations ……
The Republic guarantees civil and religious liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past …….
We place the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most High God, whose blessing we invoke upon our arms…… In this supreme hour the Irish nation must, by its valour and discipline, and by the readiness of its children, to sacrifice themselves for the common good, prove itself worthy of the august destiny to which it is called.
Signed on behalf of the Provisional Government
Thomas J Clarke
Sean MacDiarmada Thomas MacDonagh
P H Pearse Eamon Ceannt
James Connolly Joseph Plunkett
There was little fighting on the first day of the Rising. Wholly unprepared since it was believed that the Volunteers had abandoned the project, the British authorities were taken by surprise and could not immediately muster forces to attack the insurgents before they had “dug themselves in”. It was on Tuesday that a British force of some 4500 men attacked the rebel strongholds and secured the Castle. A cordon was then drawn around the north of the city, some of the rebel outposts being attacked and broken with rifle or artillery. Meanwhile large reinforcements were being hurried into Ireland. On the Thursday the encircling forces pressed closer and penetrated to the central scene of operations. Liberty Hall had been shattered by gunfire from the river, and now shells ignited great buildings in O’Connell Street. The lines of communication between the insurgent strongholds were broken, and the British Forces, concentrated on reducing headquarters, the General Post Office, over which the Republican flag still flew.
In Co Galway Liam Mellows led a large body of insurgents on Galway city. A gunboat in Galway Bay dispersed them by shellfire. At Athenry, the insurgent camp was surrounded and dispersed when the hopelessness of resistance became clear.
O Friday, a terrific bombardment had set the centre of Dublin city wholly ablaze. Banks, churches and business places were aflame and tottering. The loss of life among non-combatants was appalling. Commandant Daly had destroyed the Linen hall Barracks but was now surrounded at the Four Courts. Countess Markievicz, after being driven out of trenches in Stephens Green, was defending the College of Surgeons. Commandant McDonagh was surrounded in Jacobs factory. Commandant de Valera, whose men had so tenaciously resisted the advance from the south, was now holding Bolands Mills, while Commandant Ceannt held part of the South Dublin Union. On Saturday at 2pm Pearse surrendered to Sir John Maxwell unconditionally. And so the Rising ended, the outstanding forces laying down arms on the Sunday. All the signatories of the Republican declaration were put to death. Some death sentences were commuted to sentences of imprisonment for life, happily for Ireland, Commandant de Valera escaping thus. After a year the prisoners were released for the purpose of English propaganda in America. When one year later that is, in 1918, England decreed the conscription of Irelands manhood to save her from the great German advance, it was around deValera that the nation rallied. His coolness and wisdom saved Ireland from a bloody defeat, and secured a moral victory. In December, at the General Election, all Nationalist Ireland declared its allegiance to the Republican ideal, and the Sinn Fein policy of abstention from Westminster was adopted. In January, the republican representatives assembled in Dublin and founded Dail Eireann, the Irish Constituent Assembly, proclaiming the Republic once again. A message was sent to the nations of the world requesting the recognition of the free Irish Sate, and a national government was erected.