The Easter Rising and its Political Consequences

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2004

23 Pages, Grade: 2 (B)


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Events leading to the Easter Rising

3. The Easter Rising in 1916
3.1. Preparation and British Interference
3.2. The Easter Rising and its Downfall
3.3. Immediate Consequences and Reactions

4. The Political Events after 1916 as a Result of the Easter Rising
4.1. The rise of Sinn Fein
4.2. The General Election in 1918 and its Consequences
4.3. The Anglo-Irish War from 1919-1921
4.4. The Anglo-Irish Treaty in

5. Conclusion

6. Appendix I

7. Bibliography

1. Introduction

The history of Ireland is a turbulent one full of mysterious customs, fiery battles and unwavering pride. Many events have given account to the repeated struggle of the Irish people against invasion and the loss of their freedom. Such an incident also took place in the year 1916. It was probably one of the most important occurrences in Irish history, and it shaped the future of the country for many years to come, all the way until the present time. The event in question is until today known as the Easter Rising.

On Easter Monday, the 24 April 1916, a siege was organized that lasted only for 5 days and ended in a massacre. However, the consequences of this comparatively small act of revolution were enormous. The Easter rising heavily influenced the political relations between Ireland and England during the years that followed, and was the foundation stone of Ireland’s militant fight for independence.

The aim of this paper will be to show that the Easter Rebellion of 1916 was the crucial event in the history of modern Ireland, and that it profoundly shaped political relations with England for many years afterwards.

The first chapter will consist of a synopsis of the proceedings leading up to the rising, and the naming of possible reasons for the rebellion. Following will be a recount of the happenings on that fateful Easter Monday and the four days after, including the results of the upheaval and the subsequent reactions of the British government. Lastly it will be dealt with the consequences of the Easter rebellion, and how it influenced the political proceedings in the years following 1916.

2. Events leading to the Easter Rising

In 1800, the relationship between Britain and Ireland gained a new dimension. The Act of Union bound both countries together as one, deepening political relations and forcing the people on both sides to get acquainted practically overnight[1].

The Act, which took effect on the 1st January 1801, resulted in many changes, especially for the Irish people. Not only did they loose the parliament in Dublin, but the former members now also had to take their seats at Westminster. This development only served to distance most of the Irish from the Government in Britain. Additionally, the Act was frowned upon by many, which eventually lead to a rebellion shortly after, in 1803. It might be considered as the first sign of the continued willingness of the Irish people to fight for their Independence, with the help of armed forces if necessary.

Another problem was that the Irish citizens did not get “a fairer share in government”[2] after the Act of Union. Instead, “[t]he major part of Irish property was held by a small number of landed families [….] [T]hese people were Protestant, and for the most part unionist in their politics.”[3] They were in no way worthy representatives for the Irish majority. In addition, the common people were further discriminated in religious matters, they could only own a limited amount of land and were also not permitted to take on certain professions or receive a higher education. These restrictions were recorded in the so called Penal Laws.

Therefore, after the Act of Union, one of the main goals was to repel these laws, and to strengthen the rights of the Catholic population. The figurehead of this new campaign was Daniel O’Connell, a lawyer with catholic background. In 1823, the Catholic Association was founded, where the peasants could actively participate in political matters. The effort put into the organisation should pay off shortly thereafter, because in 1829, Catholic Emancipation was finally approved in form of the “Roman Catholic Relief Act. It removed legal prohibitions upon Catholics [and] […] eliminated the required oath for parliamentary participation.”[4] Prior to it, only those who denounced Catholicism were allowed to enter the Parliament.

This was one of the most important developments, for now also Catholics could fully take part in the politics of their country.

However, the political and religious struggles were not the only, or even the most difficult, problems of the Irish during the 19th century. Also the eating habits of the common people proved to be troublesome, because during the last part of the 18th century, the potato became the essential element of their diet. Soon, the poorer Irish hardly cultivated anything except potatoes on their land, which eventually lead to catastrophic events in the years 1845-1850, known as the Great Potato Famine.

In 1845, a potato disease came upon Ireland and destroyed most of the plants. The famine and despair that followed was one of the most horrendous occurrences in the history of the country. During those horrible years, the population of Ireland decreased steadily through starvation, sickness and emigration, and by 1855 about two million people had been lost. Furthermore, another two million would emigrate during the following 50 years, thus depriving Ireland of about 4 million people.

However, it was not only the famine itself that caused those disastrous conditions in Ireland. The British government also added to the worsening situation of the Irish peasants. In the first year of the famine, the government under Robert Peel still attempted to help the suffering population my means of relief measures. In 1846, though, when John Russell became Prime Minister, the way the problem was treated changed dramatically. Now, “Russell’s cabinet was seen to preside over the decimation of the Irish population in an especially heartless and brutal manner.”[5] This development, even though it was still many years away from the Easter Rebellion, might still be considered one of the major influences, because “[t]he powerlessness of the people, and the apparent indifference of the government to their sufferings, left a dangerous legacy of anger and resentment that was to shape political developments in the second half of the nineteenth century.”[6]

There were, of course, other events of importance in the years prior to the Easter rebellion, among them the rise and fall of Charles Steward Parnell, the founding of the Land League and its consequences, as well as the several attempts at Home Rule under Gladstone. However, to write about all those would surpass the limitations of this paper.

Therefore, only one other event will be further explained here because of its importance for the developments after the Easter rising. The occurrence in question is the founding and the later activities of the so called Fenian Movement.

In 1900, the first steps were taken by Arthur Griffith, who founded a group called Cumann na nGaedheal. This organisation “would dramatically advance Ireland’s progress towards independence […]”[7] in the future. Later on, in the years following 1907, Griffith’s group joined with two other nationalist movements, the Dungannon Clubs and the National Council, to create a new organisation – Sinn Féin.

Another major step was the re-emerging of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), and the creation of the Irish Volunteers (IV) in 1913. The IRB, also called Fenians and already founded in 1858, were a secret society “dedicated to the establishment on an Irish Republic.”[8] It had experienced an uplift in the years between 1907 and 1912, and “IRB members infiltrated almost all the principal organisations in Ireland before 1914 […].”[9]

Additional to this development, the political tension between Ireland and Britain had risen considerably since the turn of the century. Unionist movements had come together to actively resist the third Home Rule bill in 1912. Also, there was a serious dispute on whether or not Ulster should be excluded from Home Rule, and so Ireland was only one step away from a civil war when World War I began. In 1914, the IRB planned a revolutionary outbreak, which would later be known as the Easter Rising in 1916.[10]

3. The Easter Rising in 1916

3.1. Preparation and British Interference

The Easter Rising in 1916 was an event planned and executed by several leaders of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, among them Patrick Pearse and Tom Clarke. However, the planning for the rebellion had already begun two years before, in 1914.[11][12] The preparation itself was my no means a smooth process, and was interspersed with difficulties, which will be explained in the following chapter.

There were several discrepancies that delayed the planning process of the Easter Rising. One problem was that not all the leaders of the movement looked favourably upon the idea of an violent rebellion. They believed their forces to be no true match for the British army, and that the chances of succeeding were far too low. Another difficulty was the actual duration of the First World War. Most people had estimated that it would merely last a few months, and as long as it continued it hindered most of the activities of the rebels. A third element was that the majority of the public was, at least at that time, not supportive of an armed rebellion.

One of the masterminds behind the Easter Rising was a man who had already attracted public attention several years before – James Connolly. In 1912, he and James Larkin had founded the Irish Labour Party and had worked on improving the conditions for the working class. Therefore, Connolly was considered “the major labour figure in twentieth-century Irish history.”[13] As far as the planning of the Rising was concerned, Connolly apparently had no idealistic hopes in a possible success. Instead, he believed “that a symbolic strike against the British in Ireland would mobilise support for independence.”[14]

The planning for the Easter Rising began in 1914, where a meeting between IRB leaders and members of other interested groups took place. Among those in attendance was also Arthur Griffith from Sinn Féin. In this meeting, strategies for further actions were discussed. The IRB sought allies for their campaign in Germany, and made plans for a Rebellion where Ireland’s independence should be publicly declared.


[1] Unless stated differently, the following explanations are mostly based on Oonagh Walsh, Ireland's Independence, 1880 – 1923 (London: Routledge, 2002) 1-42.

[2] Walsh 1.

[3] Walsh 2.

[4] Walsh 3.

[5] Walsh 4.

[6] Walsh 5.

[7] Walsh 31.

[8] Walsh 35.

[9] Walsh 35.

[10] See: “Modern Ireland under British Rule.” Britannica© CD 99, 1994-1998. Encyclopædia

Britannica, Inc.

[11] If not stated differently, the information in the following chapters is based on Oonagh Walsh, Ireland's Independence, 1880 – 1923 (London: Routledge, 2002) 42 – 56.

[12] See: “Easter Rising.” Britannica© CD 99, 1994-1998. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

[13] Robert Kee, The Bold Fenian Men, The Green Flag Volume Two (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1989) 198.

[14] Walsh 43.

Excerpt out of 23 pages


The Easter Rising and its Political Consequences
College  (Institute for Anglistics/American Studies)
S: 'Rule, Britannia...' English Cultural History, ca. 1815 - 1900
2 (B)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
512 KB
The aim of this paper will be to show that the Easter Rebellion of 1916 was the crucial event in the history of modern Ireland, and that it profoundly shaped political relations with England for many years afterwards.
Easter, Rising, Political, Consequences, Britannia, English, Cultural, History
Quote paper
Nadja Litschko (Author), 2004, The Easter Rising and its Political Consequences, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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