aftermath of Easter Week 1916
As we look at the country today and think that 90 years
have flown since a group of brave men took on the might
of an Empire in what to many was a foolish effort to shake
off the chains that bound us to what had been our masters
for roughly 700 years. Yes! They may have been foolish in
the eyes of some, because this uneven contest could only
end in the one way, victory for the mighty, death for the
minnows. It is easy to talk of their foolishness 90 years
after the event, but every man who put his name on the declaration
of independence knew that he was signing his own death warrant,
as did others who took up arms against the crown on that
Easter Monday in 1916. They may have lost the battle but
they had taken the first steps in the ladder that was eventually
to see the Green, White and Gold fly over the GPO with as
much right as the Union Jack had to fly over Parliament
buildings in London. Looking through some of the pictures
of that Historic week brought pride and sadness to the minds
of those who studied them.
Pride at seeing the tricolour fly for the first time over
the GPO and sadness at the sight of Padraig Pierce surrendering
to General Low at 2.30 on the Saturday of that week. Pierce
stood as erectly as he did when he gave the order to enter
the Post Office, a proud man with a shattered dream.
It was after the rising that the government sowed the seeds
which were to arouse a spirit in the Irish Nation which
never died and led to the final declaring of the state as
a Republic. While the volunteers had been jeered and called
anything but soldiers on their day to the boat and captivity
after the surrender, the actions of the government later
soon turned the people against them and they never regained
either the respect of the trust of the common man. They
began by shooting the leaders of the rising on an almost
daily basis. The first to die on May 3 were Padraig Pierce,
Tom Clarke and Thomas McDonagh. On May 4 Joseph Plunkett,
Edward Daly, Micheal O'Hanrahan. On May 5 John McBride was
shot. On May 6 Eamonn Ceannt, Micheal Mallin, Con Colbert
and Sean Heuston were sent to eternity. On May 9 Thomas
Kent was shot in Cork. May 12 saw James Connolly and Sean
MacDiamada meet the same end with Connolly strapped in a
chair because he was unable to stand.
The British Prime Minister, Asquith visited Ireland on this
day. Rumour had it that there was trouble with the english
public complaining about the number of executions being
carried out. From June 26 to 29 the trial of Roger Casement
took place. He was found guilty and sentenced to death.
A number of English papers put forward pleas for his life
and that his sentence be changed to transportation. This
appeal was refused. Along with the many mistakes they made
the government added a real blunder to the list when they
tried to bring conscription into Ireland. This made the
position worse as far as the government were concerned.
The Irish people gave it a flat refusal and thousands marched
in protest through the streets.
It also now became blatantly evident that the shooting of
the leaders of the rising done nothing to stop the feeling
of bitterness that could be felt in every parish in Ireland.
This feeling was consolidatated by the foundation of the
Dail Eireann, a republican assembly in January 1919. It
was about this time that the guerrilla war of independence
was started by the IRA. This war lasted over two years and
saw many violent incidents occur. Even the least interested
in our past will have heard of 'Bloody Sunday', the destruction
of the Custom House and the many ambushes which occurred
in many parishes around the country. In order to put down
the groups which assembled to attack the barracks and camps
all over the country. These men were ex army officers and
other men who hired themselves out to earn extra money.
These were the 'Black and Tans' and along with the 'Auxiliaries'.
These were ruthlessly aggressive and gave very little thought
to the rules of warfare. A truce was arranged between the
two sides during July 1921. Following the partition of the
country and the establishment of Northern Ireland.
It was some time later that a negotiating team was sent
to London , led by Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins.
After some hard bargaining a treaty was signed with the
British Government. It was at the signing of this treaty
that Michael Collins is supposed to have stated "I
have just signed my own death warrant." When the delegation
returned to Dublin several republicans refused to agree
with it, among them Eamonn De Valera. This difference of
opinion was the cause of the Civil War which started in
June 1922. This war saw the deaths of some of the finest
men in Ireland on both sides, including Micheal Collins,
thus fulfiling the prophecy he had made when signing the
treaty. Many years have passed since then and Ireland has
come good times and bad. We have had some great politicians
and some who were useless for both their party and their
constitutions. In recent times Ireland has improved by leaps
and bounds, but the younger generation must tread carefully.
A Rose is a beautiful flower, but a Rose once plucked will
Courtesy of Willie White and The Carlow Nationalist