My A Level Coursework , please if you read it do give some advice as its not too late to change little bits lol. Enjoy. its along read i know.
To what degree was the Easter Rising of 1916 successful?
“The republic which was declared at the Rising of Easter Week, 1916, was Ireland’s expression of the freedom she aspired to. It was our way of saying that we wished to challenge Britain’s right to dominate us”. 1
Those the words of Michael Collins, a rebel in the rising and one of the signatories of the agreement signed with the British government in 1922 that granted dominion status to the 26 counties of Ireland that would become the Republic of Ireland today. In order to establish whether the rising itself was a success and to what degree one must first recognize the groups that made up the rising and their goals, these often remarkably different, then to see to what degree these were successful or unsuccessful .The main groups that planed and had goals for the rising are generally accepted to be the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), the Irish Citizen Army (ICA) and Germany, although a number of other smaller groups did play a part these are considered the main parties.
The IRB and more importantly the military council which contained the leaders of the rising and the main signatories of the declaration for a republic, consisted of the leadership of nearly all the republican organizations in Ireland, from the Irish Volunteers to “Comman na Ban” had many goals for the Rising, most incorporated in the declaration which was read aloud from the General Post Office during the rising, but also responses to offers of home rule and counter offers. One aim that the IRB pursued was a free Ireland, including the north that was not under British rule, the leaders saw offers of home rule as “mere crumbs from the rich man’s political table”.2.This aim is further supported in the declaration during the rising where they proclaimed “the Irish Republic as a Sovereign Independent State”.3 The aim of an independent state is further enforced by the large numbers of rebels that were part of the Rising who were or had been part of other republican groups such as Clan Na Gael , Sinn Fein and the Irish Parliamentary Party, all of whom in their own way pursued Irish independence. One major point of controversy in the aims of the rising is in the theories of “blood sacrifice”, against that of actual military aims. Many historians argue that the IRB saw the rising as a chance to make a stand against British occupation; they argue though that this stand was more symbolic than realistic and that the leaders sought to inspire a sense of nationalism across the country and in future generations. This theory is backed up by the character of Patrick Pearse , one of the leaders of the rising , evident in such examples as a speech he made at the funeral of O’Donovan Rossa , a republican in 1915 : “Life springs from death : and from the graves of patriotic men and women spring living nations.”4 Pearse’s had a very strong belief in martyrdom and death for a cause, he wrote of it in relation to the Great War, “the old heart of the earth needed to be warmed with the red wine of the battlefields. Such august homage was never before offered to god as this, the homage of millions of lives given gladly for love of country”.5 However the strongest claim for the theory that the rising was a sacrifice came in Pearse’s last letter home to his mother before his execution: “This is the death I should have asked for if god had given me the choice of all deaths – to die a soldiers death for Ireland and for Freedom…. People will say hard things of us now, but later they will praise us”.6
However other historians in light of the evidence that has been released both by the British, Irish and German administrations have argued that the rising had a strong, competent and valid military plan and goals. The “Irish Report” is the greatest source of evidence and was written primarily by Joseph Plunkett. The report was an in depth plan of taking control of Ireland including the landing of German troops in the west, a large number of arms to be imported as well as the taking of important strategic places such as the English harbors for the Germans, very lucrative for the German war struggle as “an independent Ireland would provide the German navy with naval bases in the west of the country from which U Boats could sever England’s Atlantic lifeline.”7 Many historians argue that the Ireland report is one of great military competence and shows that the rising was aimed at more than just sacrifice but higher goals: “What emerges from any study of the Ireland report is the wealth of hard detail which the military council had assembled, a definite belief that given the right circumstances, a quick victory over the British was both desirable and attainable”.
The Irish Citizen Army was founded by James Connolly in wake of the Dublin lockout of 1914, to protect workers in the union from violent oppression by the British forces. Connolly was a true socialist and student of Karl Marx, he saw the rising as a chance for a better system for the working class, his classic statement was “The cause of labor is the cause of Ireland, the cause of Ireland is the cause of labour”8 The socialist background of the ICA is further seen by Connolly who was editor of Irelands first socialist paper “The Workers Republic” in fact at Liberty hall , ICA headquarters, just before the Rising Connolly warned his men that he had separate goals to the Irish volunteers “if we should win , hold on to your rifles , because the volunteers may have a different goal. Remember, we are not out only for political liberty, but for economic liberty as well.”9. However due to the conservative and highly devout catholic culture of Ireland a socialist cause was never going to receive much attendance, therefore Connolly in this frustration started to threatened action to free Ireland with his own army, “By the end of 1915 Connolly’s frustration had lead to increasingly strident demands for action and to threats that if nobody took the lead then he would act with his tiny citizen Army.”10 The IRB saw this as a threat, not to them but to the rising as any smaller rising would bring about a stricter system by the British government and make the Easter Rising a less likely success. So in 1916 the military council of the IRB had Connolly kidnapped and brought for three days of negotiation , where it was decided that “in return for abandoning his own insurrectionary plans Connolly was offered an alliance between the Irish Volunteers and he Citizen Army , and a place on the military council.”11 The ICA was too small to have actually beaten the British out of Ireland but with this combination Connolly was in a position where he could hope to bring about socialist changes under an independent Ireland , this best seen by his appointment during the rising as “Vice President and commandant General of the Dublin Division of the army”.12
The final group that had hopes for the rising were the Germans, it is often questioned however if the Germans took the rising seriously, given the mixed support from them. Plunkett in his Irish report took the Germans as a serious ally who would be the keystone in turning the rising into a success, he had hoped for military leadership and ammunition as well as a U boat to control the waters. However it is clear that the Germans were not serious in showing tangible support and their aims were to cause disruption to England, “The Germans rendered assistance to both Orange and Green factions in the hope of making trouble for the British and to a degree the Americans.”13 This help is seen by at different times the Germans offering assistance to the Orange side through pamphlets such as “The Kaisers Ulster Friends”, as well as meetings between the Kaiser and Carson where they seemingly agreed to support the Ulster Volunteers. The IRB was given assurances itself of German help when Plunkett visited Berlin with roger casement, there they were assured that “an expeditionary force armed with artillery, was a real possibility”. 14 However this a lie and when the assistance was supposed to be delivered by Roger Casement he was outraged to find out that no tangible help would come , his liaison Captain Nadolny told him that , “ The Germans had little interest in Ireland beyond the possibility of some military diversion”. 15 It is clear therefore that the Germans wanted the Irish to fight on their own , the did provide a shipment of Arms that was to be delivered to the rebels on board the vessel the Aud , it however was discovered by British warships and was forced to destroy itself. The Germans aim was to cause the British confusion and divert troops from the war, to do this however they expected much but contributed little.
Depending upon how one looks at the events of Easter week one can see it as a massive success or a terrible defeat, or of course somewhere in between. For the IRB if ones take the belief that Easter week was to be that of “blood sacrifice”, an example for future generations to fight for a free Ireland to determine its success is to look into the future. “1916 helped give birth to a period in which an alternative, more aggressive brand of Irish nationalism replaced that of the IPP [Irish Parliamentary Party], with Sinn Fein”.16 the result of the Easter Rising gave Sinn Fein great support and lead it massive success in the coming election of 1918:
Another point of success is to look at Sinn Fein’s leadership, after the election results of 1918 Sinn Fein took it upon themselves to set up an independent government the “Dail Eirann”, “a cabinet including leading military men such as Michael Collins, Cathal Brugha and Richard Mulcahy”18, all men whom had been involved in the Easter Rising, lead by Eamon de Valera who was the only surviving member who signed the declaration in the rising. It is clear that not only did the rising invoke a cry for national independence, seen by the leadership of Sinn Fein and its success; it also created those who had died into Martyrs seen best by murals in Belfast and commemorations:
A final success of the “blood sacrifice” theory comes from Tom Barry, a prominent figure in the IRA (Irish Republican Army); his words echoing Pearse’s own are an account to the impact the rising had on the Irish population “through the blood sacrifices of the men of 1916, had one Irish youth of eighteen been awakened to Irish nationality. Let it also be recorded that those sacrifices were equally necessary to awaken the minds of ninety per cent of the Irish people.”22 This ninety percent of the Irish people that Tom Barry refers to is not only seen in the election results that with Sinn Fein and the IPP combined meant that the call for Irish independence was shouted by 70% of the people but also by the military action of the formed Irish Republican Army against the British forces between 1916-1922 which forced them into negotiations and the coming treaty.
On the other hand the strong evidence that the rising was meant to be that of a military success is clearly a failure. The Irish report had banked upon the help of German forces this was a complete failure as to avoid capture the Aud carrying the arms was exploded “to send to Aud to the bottom, taking with her what little prospect there had been of the rising succeeding”.23 Not only was there no support from the Germans in any form but the hopes that there would be a national rising was also destroyed by Eoin MacNeil, one of the leaders of the Irish Volunteers who was being used by the IRB military council. After the failing of the Arms with the sinking of the Aud MacNeil using his position and trying to save lives in what was now becoming a inevitable defeat for the rising wrote a countermanding order to all volunteer brigades ordering them to not mobilize “MacNeill now dispatched messengers such as the O Rahilly throughout the country with countermanding orders for the Sunday Manoevueres”.24 MacNeill also tried to save bloodshed in Dublin by writing a message to the volunteers in the Sunday Independent “oweing to the very critical situation , all orders given to the Irish Volunteers for tomorrow Easter Sunday are hereby rescomded.”25 From the start of the Rising it is clear that it was a doomed affair although one minor piece of success comes from the casualties list that state during the whole rising that 450 dead, 2614 wounded and 9 missing of the dead 116 were British army and a roll call for the volunteers stated that 64 were dead rebels. 26
The ICA had hoped the rising would lead to socialist reform, not only in terms of politics but economically. Connolly who was a devout socialist had hoped that this would spark a change in the fortunes of the working class in Ireland, this majority Catholic. After the rising the IRA and was comprised of mostly lower class Catholics , the people Connolly was attempting to help, “the IRAs 1919-21 war was a sense of social or status resentment amongst a Catholic lower-middle class.”27 Although after 1922 and the civil war there were good movements by the government to improve the situation of the poor such as the 1924 Ministers and Secretaries act that included “slum clearance and new housing construction, making grants of some £300,000 available,” as well as to restrict the squalor such as drinking hours being contained however the Irish government never truly became what Connolly wanted, a socialist government.
Finally the Germans saw the rising as a distraction for Britain one which might give an opportunity for them in the great war, this however would prove to be a failure too. Firstly the rising was not popular enough , thanks to MacNeill’s orders as well as the failure of the Aud the Rising turned from what the Germans hoped would be a distraction to a small contined battle in Dublin between just over a thousand rebels. “64 rebels as having died out of a grand total of 1,558”.28 When you compare that this was contested agains some twenty thousand british troops it is a miracle that the rebels held out for so long , this in due thanks to their training in street fighting , the easter rising ended after just
1. [Armed Struggle the History of the IRA, Richard English]
2. [The 1916 Easter Rising, Tim Pat Coogan].
3. [Declaration of an Irish Nation]
4. [Ireland in the Twentieth Century, Tim Pat Coogan]
5. [Ireland in the Twentieth Century, Tim Pat Coogan]
6. [The Easter Rising, Michael Foy]
7. [The Easter Rising, Michael Foy]
8. [The Course of Irish History, T.W. Moody]
9. [1916: The Easter Rising, Tim Pat Coogan]
10. [The Easter Rising, Michael Foy]
11. [The Easter Rising, Michael Foy]
12. [The Easter Rising, Michael Foy]
13. [Ireland in the Twentieth Century, Tim Pat Coogan]
14. [Ireland in the Twentieth Century, Tim Pat Coogan]
15. [Ireland in the Twentieth Century, Tim Pat Coogan]
16. [Armed Struggle the History of the IRA, Richard English]
18. [Armed Struggle the History of the IRA, Richard English]
19. [Falls Road, www.stanford.edu/group/ww1/spring2000/B ... Image2.htm
20. [90th Year Commemoration of 1916 Easter Rising, 2006]
21. [Celebrative Post Stamps of 1916 Leaders]
22. [Armed Struggle the History of the IRA, Richard English]
23. [1916: The Easter Rising, Tim Pat Coogan]
24. [The Easter Rising, Michael Foy]
25. [The Easter Rising, Michael Foy]
26. [The Easter Rising, Michael Foy]
27. [Armed Struggle the History of the IRA, Richard English]
28. [The Easter Rising , Micheal Foy]