Sunday, June 17, 2012

New book on the 1916 Easter Uprising in Dublin

Excellent review (here) by Robert Wilbur of a updated version of the book Easter Rising by Michael Foy and Brian Barton about the 1916 Easter Revolution in Dublin.

On Easter Monday 1916 in Dublin 1500 armed  Irish revolutionaries seized a number of strategic buildings and locations across the city, including the Court House and the iconic Dublin Post Office, with the goal of immobilizing the British forces in Dublin and inspiring a revolutionary uprising throughout Ireland.

The uprising was  mounted by Irish Republicans at the height of WW1 with the aim of ending British rule in Ireland and establishing an Irish rebellion.  All this occured at the time that the British empire was engaged in the slaughter on the Western Front across France and Belgium.

The British response to the Easter uprisings was unsurprisingly savage and ferocious.They shelled and attacked the insurgents with artillery and massive firepower. Foy and Barton write:
The fighting in Dublin at Easter 1916 was multifaceted, ranging from rifle fire into and out of houses and large buildings, to ambushes and pitched battles. Grenades and bombs were thrown from roofs while snipers operated from windows, barricades, church spires and clock towers and were, in turn, hunted down by individual enemy marksmen or units. Sometimes combat was at close quarters, almost hand to hand.
The Post Office siege was perhaps the most iconic. The insurgents held out against British artillery and direct fire for days.

The rebellion was suppressed within a week and its leaders were arrested and deported to Britain where they were either executed or imprisoned. Many of those involved became leaders in the ongoing struggle against British rule that eventually lead to Irish independence, including legendary figures in Irish history such as Michael Collins, Eamon de Valera, James Connolly (executed) and Roger Casement (executed).

Despite its apparent failure at the time the Easter uprising was a definitive event that largely united the counties of Southern Ireland against their British masters  and ultimately forced the British  to the bargaining table. In particular, the savagery of the British was a critical factor in turning many Irish people to the Republican cause.
"The Easter Rising was an ill-fated enterprise. It was conceived by two revolutionary groups: the Irish Brotherhood (IRB) was Catholic, but far from catholic, while the much smaller Irish Citizen's Army (ICA) was a democratic-socialist organization that stood for just about everything that made the IRB nervous, from atheism to women's rights. 

 What united them was their determination to evict the British and establish an Irish state. Their opponents, however, were not just the crown forces, but their Irish subjects was well, for Ireland - like all the participants in the Great War – had been infected with an epidemic of chauvinism. Foy and Barton write: "The First World War was a seminal event in Irish history. It involved more combatants and casualties than all subsequent conflicts in Ireland combined and it utterly changed the country's political situation. Initially, people appeared gripped by pro-war sentiment as patriotic crowds in Dublin waved Union Jacks, wrecked shops owned by German immigrants and wildly cheered soldiers departing for the Western Front."

But as the war dragged on, it exerted a divisive effect between the gradualist, pro-war supporters of home rule and the increasingly militant nationalists. Still, what really turned the trick, what had the Irish waving green flags instead of Union Jacks - and within the course of a few weeks - was the savagery with which the British crushed the Easter Rising. A short-term military victory would turn into a political catastrophe for the United Kingdom".

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