The 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 quickly fade.

Courtesy of Willie White and The Carlow Nationalist