Seminar Paper, 2007
16 Pages, Grade: 1,3
2 Status quo ante- the circumstances before the outbreak
3 Dissensions amongst nationalists
4 Preparation for the rebellion
5 The course of the Eastern Rising
6 Restoration of British reign and punishment
7 Political aftermaths of the Eastern Rising
The Eastern Rising of national Irish rebels is still nowadays regarded as one of the most crucial events throughout Irish history. One may consider it as an abolished attempt to gain sovereignty and disparage it to be an uprising that was senseless and doomed to failure in advance, others view it as a symbol of Irish martyrdom and as an insurgence that was everything but useless. Advocates claim that the Eastern Rising was necessary to exercise pressure onto the British usurpators. They state that a military uprising like this, even if there was less prospect of success, showed Westminster that there could not be any long- term peace in Ireland without dealing with the question of home rule. Opponents argue that Irish rebels caused the loss of lives of innocent people by fighting a war that was at this time not backed up by the common Irish people, and that in the end they themselves are to be blamed for the casualties and devastation the fights demanded. Supporters reply that the insurrection was the first step to a free state of Ireland, that it stirred nationalism in the minds of the Catholics of the Island and that it was a milestone on the way to the republic.
What ever scholars think of it, it is a matter of fact that this event is one of the most commemorated incidents in Ireland. Countless erected monuments and installed plates at places all over the Island reminiscent of the losses and sacrifices of the 1916 rebels. They are called patriots who fought, outnumbered and starved, for a holy aim and who had to submit to ruthless soldiers, sent by an illicit and tyrannous foreign government. Therefore the uprising prevails in the mind of the Irish people, bolstered up by songs, poems or parades and days of commemoration.
This paper shall examine the circumstances right before the outbreak of the rising, its preparation and the course of events within it. Furthermore it shall show in what way the British restored their power and how they responded to the open violence. The paper is supposed to try to display what aftermaths the Eastern Rising actually had and if there was any sense in this adventure that was apparently doomed to failure in advance. Another point is concerned with the reflection of the rebellion. If it is blamed to be another example of useless hatred, conducted by only few men of weird mind, or if it is viewed as a necessary act of freedom by heroes who sacrificed themselves on the altar of a free Ireland. At last, the paper shall answer the question, if the Eastern Rising had any significant impact in the further course of Anglo- Irish history.
As in many similar cases of mutinies or revolutions, the opportunity to undertake them is at its best when the power to be over toppled is involved in inner conflicts or worse, as in the case of Britain, participating in a war. Because that means that a lot of military force and political and public focus respectively is absorbed in a great struggle and therefore obliged to neglect other places or cases of trouble. History shows that people who feel oppressed or violated are always searching and waiting for those moments to seize. Irish rebels considered the fight of the British army on the continent as the great possibility to do their great blow against the crown. They hoped that the cruelty and exhausting demands of the brawl against Germany would persuade Britain that another spot of turbulence could mean a decisive interference in the strength of warfare and that this must necessarily lead to a drawback and to an, at least partly, approval of Irish claims.
At the beginning of the century there was a huge militarization of the civilian population of Ireland. In August 1914 about a quarter of million people had became members of paramilitary organizations. Whereas many Catholic nationalists had to face conflicts within the own movement, Protestants were able to built a strong phalanx against the forthcoming Home Rule debate. Violence became a means of political expression within the common people of both confessions.
In the immediate vicinity of the outbreak of the Great War, Ireland was about to obtain Home Rule. The proposal of 1912 implied a bicameral Irish parliament, which was allowed to vote an executive compared to the two Houses of Westminster. The new assembly should be permitted to make laws of peace and order. But in fact, this proposal was a very restricted one, because the whole extensive power should remain to the imperial parliament. This meant that crucial issues such as foreign affairs (war and peace) and taxation stayed with Westminster. Additional there should be checks in cases of law, education and finance, which of course would have impaired the sovereignty of a future government.
Just like in 1886 and 1893, as the first and second proposals were refused by the Houses of Commons and Lords of Westminster, Unionist summoned again in 1912 to protest against the suggestion of Liberals to set up an Irish chamber. That displays that not only a lot of Irish nationalists condemned the proposal, but also Ulster unionist, who feared to be controlled by a future Catholic government.
Moderate nationalists like John Redmond, who even succeeded in persuading many Irishmen to join the British Army, or members of the Irish Volunteers welcomed the bill, whereas many radicals like Patrick Pearse or members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood completely rejected a limited parliament, which would have included a partition of the country. The Home Rule Bill, which of course included a special treatment of Ulster, was eventually endorsed in September 1914. Its implementation was postponed to the end of the war, which at this time was said to last only few month. Unfortunately it never came to life because the long-term struggle of Britain on the continent and, above all, the events of the Easter Rising thwarted the possibility of a peaceful and diplomatic Anglo-Irish agreement.
Summarily one could say that it is at least doubtful if an Irish assembly would have been set up in a non-war 1914. Considering all the resistance from both Irish nationalists as well as from Protestant unionist, it’s hard to believe that a realisation of the Home Rule Amendment had marred the use of violence by radicals of both sides, neither had it prevented future insurrections of Catholics such as in 1916 or 1919- 1921.
Just like many other examples throughout Irish History, and later also demonstrated within the inner Irish conflict about the Anglo- Irish treaty, Irish nationalists were everything but always consent about what to do and how to achieve their aims. Furthermore, even their aims often discriminated widely. So republicans not only had to fight their British opponent but also had to prevent intrinsic struggles as best as possible. Before the Eastern Rising was supposed to be exercised, there were again several discrepancies amongst popular leaders of the movement, which of course could only weaken the momentum of any planned insurrection.
John Redmond, who welcomed the tabled Home Rule Bill, rejected means of violence, because he thought that it would only destruct any political aims that had been reached so far. Redmond could summon most of the Irish Volunteers behind him and even a lot of hard- lined republicans stuck with him, at least until he tried to persuade his followers to enrol in the British Army in September 1914. This behaviour was despised by radical elements of the Irish Volunteers and of course by the violent Irish Republican Brotherhood. Reasons for his drive to urge Irishmen to join the British Army can only be guessed and are widely discussed. One possibility is that a loyal Irish position during the war would have strengthened the supporters of a free republic within the chambers in Westminster and additional would have thwarted aggressive Unionist movements, because Ireland had proofed its tie of friendship. Another guess is that Redmond was a sincere advocate of the war against Germany and that he approved to fight any continental power that arrogates to occupy small countries like Belgium. In turn, historians may plead that Redmond only wanted to have as many Irishmen drilled and exercised in warfare as possible to have a strong base of negotiation for a freed Ireland after the war. What ever Redmond’s intentions might have been, his behaviour, as mentioned above, stirred trouble amongst nationalists. It caused for example the split of MacNeill, another important Irish leader who argued for neutrality, and with him about 13.000 members of the estimated 188.000 Irish Volunteers. Later, many members of the radical Irish Republican Brotherhood joined MacNeill and set up a military committee in September 1914 to guarantee control and to plan a rising. The length of the war and the sustaining suspension of the implementation of the Home Rule Bill despaired many Irishmen and foiled Redmond’s efforts to achieve a peaceful solution. The immense decrease of Irish recruiting figures also reflected that the majority of the common people didn’t identify themselves any more with the war of the crown.
 Cf. Charles Townshend , Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion (London: Penguin Books, 2005) 28- 29.
 Cf. Paul Bew, Ideology and the Irish Question: Ulster Unionism and Irish Nationalism 1912- 1916 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994) 13- 14.
 Cf. Joseph Lee , Ireland 1912- 1985: Politics and Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989) 6.
 Ibid., 20- 21.
 Cf. Joseph Lee , Ireland 1912- 1985: Politics and Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989) 20- 23.
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