Prior to arriving in Ireland, I had never given much thought to the rebellion of 1916. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising, and if I hadn’t had exposure to the events of the insurrection while home in the United States, it’s hardly possible to overlook it any longer.
The Easter Rising was a rebellion against British authority in Ireland. The Irish rebels belonged to organized groups, namely Patrick Pearse’s Irish Volunteers and James Connolly’s Irish Citizen Army, with additional members of Cumann na mBan. Fighting began Easter Monday, April 24th 1916, and ended on April 29th, with the British army overpowering the Irish forces (much due to the Irish’s lack of weapons and preparation). Most of the Rising’s leaders were imprisoned and executed as a result; however, it accelerated the war for Irish independence, which was ultimately achieved with the creation of the Irish Free State in 1922.
Dublin was the center of the Rising’s chaos, but there were conflicts scattered across the country. Counties Meath, Louth, Wexford, and Galway also felt the effects of the rebellion. Being in Galway, I decided to look around at exactly how the violence had marked it.
In 1915, Galway was appointed its own leader, Irish republican Liam Mellows, who was born in England and raised in County Wexford. He assembled the Volunteers throughout County Galway and organized the attacks during Easter week. The first day of the Rising, Volunteers struck multiple locations, and on Tuesday they targeted British police in Oranmore and Clarinbridge. It was not until Wednesday that the British army advanced to pose as the inevitable victor of the conflict. In the early morning, they ambushed a rebel force at Carnmore, outnumbering the Irish and their insufficient weaponry and coming in waves on foot and by car. After their defeat, the Irish abandoned Athenry and withdrew to strongholds Moyode Castle and Limepark. By Friday, British troops surrounded Irish bases and the navy was well established in Galway Bay. Finally, on Saturday, the Irish were overpowered and were forced to return home. The leaders, on the other hand, fled, or in most cases were imprisoned and executed.
Perhaps if the Irish were better prepared, properly armed, and appropriately organized, the outcome of the Rising would be different. Though Ireland suffered defeat, the unified rebel forces throughout the country proved that Ireland’s nationalism and will for an independent state was strong. The nationwide insurgence marked the beginning of Ireland’s stone path to independence. Not unlike our own American Revolution, I think this not-so-distant fight for freedom should be recognized around the world today as it is in Ireland. There’s something particularly inspiring about this tiny island’s intense demand (and subsequent success) to be its own nation despite hundreds of years of British dominion.
For additional reading and information on the 1916 Easter Rising, explore this collection of New York Times articles.
The world awaits…discover it.