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Easter Rising – essential Facts

The Easter Rising began on Easter Monday, 24 April in 1916. It lasted for six days and ended when the rebels reluctantly decided they had no choice but to surrender on Saturday 29 April.

Easter Rising essential facts. Image copyright Ireland Calling

The Rising was organised by the Military Council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB).

The rebels outlined their objectives in the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, which was read outside the General Post Office by Patrick Pearse at the start of the Rising.

The Proclamation stated the desire to set up an independent republic that would provide equal opportunities for everyone, male or female; Protestant or Catholic.

Who took part in the Rising?

The Proclamation was signed by the seven leaders of the Rising: Tom Clarke, Seán MacDiarmada, Thomas MacDonagh, Patrick Pearse, Éamonn Ceannt, James Connolly, Joseph Plunkett. Together they made up the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic.

As well as the IRB, the main groups taking part in the Rising were the Irish Volunteers, the Irish Citizen Army and Cumann na mBhan.

There were about 1600 rebels in total taking part.

There might have been thousands more across the country if not for confusion and distrust among the leaders.

The Rising was postponed for 24 hours

Eoin MacNeill, Chief of Staff of the Irish Volunteers, believed a Rising should only go ahead if it had a reasonable chance of success or if the British tried to clamp down on the nationalists and prevent them meeting or marching. He also believed military action was only possible if the rebels received a shipment of guns from Germany.

However, the ship carrying with the arms the rebels needed was intercepted by the British on 22 April.

MacNeill then discovered that the Military Council planning the Rising had forged a document supposedly from the British Administration in Dublin Castle announcing that action would be taken against nationalist groups.

MacNeill was furious when he discovered the deception and the loss of the arms. On Easter Saturday, barely 24 hours before the Rising was due to begin, he issued an order to the Volunteers that they had been deceived and all military manoeuvres planned for the next day had been cancelled.

The Military Council held an emergency meeting and decided to go ahead anyway but they delayed the start to April 24, Easter Monday.

The confusion and countermanding orders meant the Rising was largely restricted to Dublin and only about 1,600 rebels took part.

Rebels planned to seize key sites across Dublin

The rebel plan was to seize key sites across Dublin that they could defend against the British and then wait for the rest of the Volunteers across the country to join in.

The sites they took over included the General Post Office, the Four Courts, Jacob’s Biscuit Factory, Boland’s Mill, St Stephen’s Green and others.

The British were caught off guard by the Rising but quickly brought in troops from England to reinforce those already in Ireland. They quickly outnumbered the rebels and had much better armaments including heavy artillery.

The rebels held out for six days but were eventually forced to surrender.

Hundreds of casualties of the Rising

A total of 64 rebels were killed in action and many more were wounded. The British Army lost 116 soldiers and a further 368 were wounded.

Sixteen police officers were killed and a further 29 were wounded.

However, it was innocent passers-by who suffered the most. There were 318 civilian fatalities and a further 2,217 were wounded. Some were deliberately targeted by both the rebels and the British if they refused to co-operate, but most were killed or injured in the crossfire from machine guns and incendiary shells.

Public opinion in Ireland was hostile to the Rising at first because of the heavy civilian casualties, the damage to the city and because many people had relatives fighting in the British Army against Germany. The press also suggested that the Rising had been planned by Germany, which made people dislike the rebels even more.

A total of 90 people were sentenced to death by courts martial following the Rising. However, only 16 were executed and the others had their sentences commuted.

Dramatic change in public opinion

The British change of heart was down to a dramatic change in public opinion. People regarded the executions as unnecessarily harsh, especially when the writings of some of the rebel leaders started to be published, showing that they were idealists fighting for their country and not puppets of the Germans.

The 16 executed included the seven signatories of the Proclamation plus Sir Roger Casement, Michael O’Hanrahan, Thomas Kent, Michael Mallin, Seán Heuston, Con Colbert, Edward Daly, Major John MacBride and Willy Pearse.

James Connolly was the last person to be executed. He was so weak from his wounds during the fighting that he had to be strapped in his chair to face the firing squad. His death in particular outraged public opinion and brought an end to the executions.

Following the Easter Rising public opinion switched dramatically in favour of Irish independence.

Huge boost for Sinn Fein

This provided a huge boost for Sinn Fein. They played no part in the Rising but became its main political beneficiaries. They won a huge majority of the Irish seats in the 1918 British General Election. Instead of taking their seats in the British parliament in London, they set up their own assembly, the Dáil Eireann in Dublin.

The British refused to recognise the Dáil, a move which sparked the Irish War of Independence, which eventually led on to the Irish Free State and later, the Irish Republic.

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The Easter Rising 1916 failed in the sense that it was quickly overcome and its leaders were executed. However, it changed public opinion in Ireland entirely and paved the way for eventual independence. For that reason, many believe it was a glorious, if belated, triumph.

This list provides a quick summary of the key facts relating to the Easter Rising 1916. Please visit our full list of Easter Rising Articles to see more than 50 articles covering every aspect of the Rising in more detail, or click on any of the links below.

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