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Account for the 1916 Rising

Account for the 1916 Rising

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Ireland) Competition by Colin Dignam. Originally submitted for Law and European Studies at University of Limerick, with lecturer Ruan O' Donnell in the category of Historical Studies
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Ireland) Competition by Colin Dignam. Originally submitted for Law and European Studies at University of Limerick, with lecturer Ruan O' Donnell in the category of Historical Studies

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
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02/07/2014

 
In attempting to answer the question posed, ‘account for the 1916 Rising’, a dualanswer will be required. The question is looking for the reasons behind the occurrenceof the 1916 Rising and also for an explanation of why the event that took placehappened in the way that it did. Thus, the following argument shall firstly deal withthe reasons behind the event and the second part will examine why the risings courseof events happened so.The argument shall show that British involvment in the ‘Great War’ and the ancilliaryactions and events that spawned from it, created the opportunity for the event of theEaster Rising. In conjunction with this opportunity, was the growing strength of radical republicanistic elements in 1914 and 1915. Together, these shall be shown to be the reasons that culminated in the rising.Beginning with the first half of the question, focus must be brought upon therelationship between Ireland and Britain. Britain’s involvement in the first World War altered the status quo that had existed previously in political terms between the twocountries. Britain’s military strength was depleted significantly during the years from1914 to 1916
1
. Also the effects of introducing conscription in the form of a service billupon the people of Ireland created anti-war feelings among the Irish populace. Wardstates this came from Britain’s handlings of the conscriptees, by not allowing them toform Irish battalions, as desired by John Redmond.
2
The Irish under-secretary of the time, Sir Matthew Nathan, noted this growthin anti –British attitude and ill-feeling towards the war effort.
3
Also, the war had theeffect of enabling the British parliament to shelve the Home Rule Bill, which had
1
Max Caulfield,
The Easter Rebellion,
(London 1964) p 16.
2
Alan J Ward,
 Ireland and Anglo-American Relations 1899-1921,
(London 1969) p103.
3
Ward,
 Ireland and Anglo-American Relations,
 p 103.
 
 been due to be brought into legislation. This also created ill-feeling and tensionamongst radical republican elements in Irish society, which was directed towards theBritish administration of Ireland. Connelly, a leader of one of the radical elementsstated this himself in the newspaper ‘Foreward’ on the fourteenth of March, 1914. Healso went on to say that physical force could be a response to the acts of the British parliament.
4
Britain’s involvement in the war brought strain upon it’s relationship beween it’s administration of Ireland and the Irish people.
 5
These new circumstanceshad developed to make radical republican groups in Irish society contemplate a possible physical revolt, summed up in the Fenian dictum ‘England’s difficulty isIreland’s oppurtunity. Although it must be noted that the degree of strain was notstrong enough to entice other classes of the Irish people to join in open physicalrevolt. O’Hegarty outlines the feelings of an average Irish citizen in 1916, by statingdue to propaganda people still supported Britian in World War I.
6
 Any deterrant tothis cause, such as the Rising, was looked on with condemnation.Thus the main elements which instigated the rising during this oppurtune timewere radical republican organisations such as the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB)and the Irish Citizen Army (ICA). These separate organisations united to stage arising from different original perpectives.The ICA, which grew from a socialist defence force during the strike and lockout of 1913, had mainly socialistic beliefs. The IRB on the other hand were republican inoutlook and desired total independence for the Irish nation. Both were starklydifferent in outlook but were united on common grounds.
4
Peter Berresford Ellis, ‘James Connolly, 1916 and the Blood Sacrafice Myth’, April2001, (IrishDemocrat) (www.irishdemocrat.co.uk/about-connolly/Connolly-1916- blood-sacrafice) (10
th
March 2009)
5
P.S O’Hegarty,
The victory of Sinn Fein,
(Dublin 1998) p 2.
6
O’Hegarty,
The victory of Sinn Fein,
 p 2.
 
James Connolly’s decision to join in open physical revolt came from aninherent practicality of the sitution at hand. Connolly, himself stated,‘Internationalism of the future will be based upon the free federation, free peoples andcannot be realised through the subjugation of the smaller, by the larger political unit’.
7 
Ellis interprets this from Connolly as Connolly’s understanding of social and nationalfreedom being entwined and not separate. It appears Connolly still held his feverentsocialistic beliefs but understood the pragmatic option to unite with the IRB militarycouncil.
8
Connolly’s reasons for staging the rising were formulated from a desire tocreate a republic in order to establish a socialist state. Confusion to Connolly’sinvolvement in the rising has been felt due to his socialistic nature. Examples of suchcan be seen in the Labour Party MP Tom Johnsons’ journal entry from the 6th of May, 1916, ‘it is all a mystery to me.’ But as Ellis has already explained, his role in1916 was he logical progression of his life’s works and teachings that had clearly been in print in articles and books during the twenty years before the event.These can be found in Connolly’s own works such as ‘Socialism and Nationalism’. A further piece of evidence of Connolly’s desire to relinquish British political control of Ireland by force comes from Connolly’s intention to stage a risingsolely with the ICA in January in 1916.
9
He is reported to have said to JJ Bourke that‘the citizen army would move within a week on it’s own and under his leadership.’
 These intentions of Connolly to act solely with the megre strength of the ICAshows his conviction to the cause of staging a rising. Connolly’s only decision towithdraw from this plan came from being informed of the IRB’s military council’s plans to rise at Easter. Connolly understood the probability of staging a successful
7
Ellis, e at James Connolly.
8
Tim Pat Coogan,
 Michael Collins,
(Dublin 1991) p 34.
9
Donal Nevin,
 James Connolly, A Full Life,
(London 2005) p 628.
10
Nevin,
 James Connolly,
 p 628.

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