One hundred years ago, Irish men and women rose up against the British Empire demanding independence, justice and equality.
1. It Struck a Blow at the British Empire and for Independence Worldwide
During Easter Week 1916, Irish revolutionaries rose up to declare independence and an end to British imperial rule of their nation. Barricades across the capital city of Dublin sprung up with revolutionaries taking over key strategic landmarks and issuing the following Proclamation:
"We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people...
….we hereby proclaim the Irish Republic as a Sovereign Independent State, and we pledge our lives and the lives of our comrades in arms to the cause of its freedom, of its welfare, and of its exaltation among the nations…
...The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien Government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.”
2. It Inspired the Push for Socialism and Revolution in Europe
Ireland’s Easter rebellion has often been described as the first socialist revolution in Europe. One of the leaders James Connolly was an important international socialist figure.
It was certainly the first major revolt by the exploited in Europe since the beginning of World War I, which had turned nation against nation and dampened internal class struggles as the pressure to "fight for your country" trumped the calls to fight for social justice. Ireland’s rebellion was soon followed by other rebellions in Europe against the war and for socialism including in Russia in 1917 and Germany in 1918-19.
3. The British Empire Showed Its Cruelty – Within Its Own Borders
The rebellion was viciously put down by the British Army which sent in 20,000 troops and even used a gunboat, destroying large areas of Dublin. After the defeat of the rebellion, all seven signatories to Ireland’s Proclamation of Independence were executed by British soldiers along with other leaders. In the days following the rebellion's defeat, 1,500 people were rounded up and interned.
4. The Rebellion Sparked Huge Public Sympathy
The ruthless reaction by the British forces served only to spur the revolutionary movement which swept the general election just two years later with Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein winning 73 of the 105 seats. In 1919, Sinn Fein MPs declared a separate revolutionary parliament and ratified the 1916 independence proclamation.
5. Women Played an Important Role
The 1,400 or so Irish rebels involved in the uprising included 200 from the women's military brigade Cumann na mBan. Constance Markievicz was one of the most prominent women in the rebellion. A politician, freedom fighter, suffragette and socialist, she was jailed when the rebellion failed but later became one of the first women in the world to hold a Cabinet position (as minister for labor) in the soon to be formed Irish Republic.
This article was originally published on April 24, 2016.