Mention the year 1916 and most people will describe a world in chaos. World War I was raging on both fronts; the Russians had launched an offensive against the Germans in the East in an attempt to divert forces from the Battle of Verdun in France. Belgian troops were marching into East Africa to fend off German aggression, and in the Middle East, Arabs were revolting against the ruling Ottoman Turks. Pancho Villa was inflicting murder and mayhem along the Mexican border, and U.S. troops were being sent to quell uprisings in the Caribbean. It is not, however, these events that an Irishman will associate with 1916. For the Irish, 1916 was the year of the Easter Rising.
The troubled history of Ireland is long and tragic, and no event more so that the uprising of April 1916. It was one of the most audacious and yet one of the most inspiring rebellions in modern history — that of a handful of Irish patriots to wrest control of Ireland from Great Britain and set up a Republic.
Frustrated and enraged by Britain’s intransigence and resistance to popular demands for Home Rule, two groups of armed rebels, the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army, seized key locations in Dublin on April 24th (Easter Monday) 1916. Proclaiming the Republic of Ireland, the rebels fought desperately for six days before being crushed by the British Army of Occupation. A third of the city of Dublin was destroyed by fire, and hundreds of lives sacrificed. Although unsuccessful, the rising acquired great propaganda value as a consequence of the brutal reprisals by the British government; overall, seventy-five men were sentenced to death and two thousand to imprisonment. The British executed all seven signatories to the proclamation of independence. The legacy of these deaths continues to haunt Anglo-Irish relations to this day, and leaves us wondering – to what extent did the Easter Rising accomplish its goals? And to what extent did the anti-British sentiment produced as a result of the uprising stoke the flames of Irish independence?
Linda Fitzgibbons will answer these questions and more when she discusses the Rising, its leaders Tom Clarke, Joseph Mary Plunkett and James Connolly, and its impact on the founding of the Republic of Ireland at the library on Monday, September 14, at 6:30 PM. The program is a free public service. No registration is necessary. For further reading about Ireland, its history, customs and culture read, The Story of Ireland: a History of the Irish People, by Neil Hegarty, A History of Britain and Ireland, by R.G. Grant, and The Graves are Walking, the Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People, by John Kelly.