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Easter Uprising In Ireland

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On Easter Monday, April 24, 1916, a force of Irishmen attempted to seize Dublin, with the ultimate intention of eliminating British rule and creating a completely independent Ireland. Their leaders, such as Patrick Pearse and James Connolly, knew that they were destined to die, but saw the importance of independence, thus the rebellion was inevitable. In the eyes of many the rebellion was a complete failure, with the loss of lives and damage of buildings, but in the eyes of many Irish patriots the rebellion was a complete success as it promoted Irish nationalism and ultimately lead to an independent Ireland. The circumstances that lead to the rebellion are of an intense complexity, historical, social, political and psychological, and the rebellion itself has lasting impacts on society today.

Since 1603, when Ireland was for the first time effectively united under British rule, Irish history has been dictated by the British, and the poor relationship between Ireland and Britain. The root of the problem was that Ireland was a mainly Roman Catholic country ruled by Protestant foreigners, colonial administrators acting on behalf of a Protestant Government far away. During the 18th century, the Irish Catholics were deprived of all rights, as one English judge brutally put it: "The law does not suppose any such person to exist as an Irish Roman Catholic." The Irish could only assume that the English did not regard them as human beings at all, and this was clearly seen in the Great Famine of the 19th century.

The Great Famine of 1845-1851 was crucial in shaping Ireland's attitudes towards British rule and leading to the nationalism that provoked the eventual uprising of 1916. The peasants lived on potatoes, it was their only crop, and when the crop was killed by disease famine struck. The potato was primarily grown because it could produce a relatively high yield with little intensive care. Many though relied on the crop and that is why the famine of 1845-1849 was so catastrophic. Ireland had a population of 8 million before the famine, 1 million died from the famine and another 1-2 million immigrated to America. Ireland's population, which had grown so strongly throughout the 18th century and early 19th century, had been shattered. The impact that the famine had on 1916 was simple: the English were blamed for the famine. The starving Irish could not understand why their crops of wheat were sent to England whilst they were dying. They could not understand why the Government Ð'- always willing to pass laws to damage Irish trade and economic interests Ð'- would give no help. The famine made the Irish realise that they need to take responsibility for their own affairs, and not rely on the leadership of other countries. This idea and the deep hatred for British rule by many Irish significantly shaped many values that the Irish held towards the English leading up to 1916, and still hold today.

The issue of Home Rule had a great impact on the eventual uprising, and was an important issue for all Irish. Many in Ireland saw the right to self government important in the development of an independent Irish state, and the British themselves were attempting to give at least some form of Home Rule. British Prime Minister Gladstone proposed several Home Rule Bills however the Liberals and The House of Lords rejected them all. In 1914 a Home Rule Bill was passed, however Northern Ireland would not accept to this, and with World War I looming, the government decided to delay the issue of Home Rule until after the war. This was satisfactory for many in Ireland, who saw the war as the number one priority over all other issues, but others were not so satisfied. It was generally these people who lead the uprising in 1916, those who saw Home Rule as a crucial issue which would not wait. The issue led to the establishment of many crucial groups, including the Irish Republican Brotherhood.

The Irish Republican Brotherhood was a nationalist group that was the driving force behind the uprising. The leaders of the IRB, including Patrick Pearse and Thomas MacDonagh, had very violent had idealistic views of a nationalist uprising. They had not been pleased with the Home Rule process, and viewed concessions made by the British Government as mere "crumbs from the rich man's political table." It is clear that the IRB aspired not to an Ireland with a degree of autonomy under the crown, but to a free, independent republic. The IRB were a passionate group, and a group that would go to the limit for what they wanted, including the use of violence. The IRB saw the First World War as the chance that they needed, and guided by the old Fenian dictum that "England's difficulty is Ireland's opportunity", the insurrection was planned.

It is clear that the rebellion was a complete military failure for a number of reasons. The rebels, in comparison to their opposition had very limited military supplies and volunteers, making the rebellion itself destined to fail. The rebels were outnumbered roughly 8 to 1 and unlike their counterparts were not highly trained in battle. Plans were made to enlist German aid, but they all went wrong. Sir Roger Casement went to recruit an Irish brigade from prisoners of war in Germany, but failed. The IRB had arranged for a German ship to land rifles and ammunition in support of the rising, but due to a confusion of timing, the ship was discovered by the British. Finally many who were intending to take part in the rebellion did not due to conflicting information about dates. The leader of the Irish Volunteers, McNeill, was disheartened by the fact that no weapons had been obtained and called the rebellion off. The other leaders were still willing to go on with the rebellion, and whilst on the surface agreeing with McNeill, they had given orders that the rising would still go

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