Today, Irish people are commemorating the 1916 Easter Rising, the failed rebellion that led a few years later to Irish independence. Here’s what you need to know about it.
Why did the Rising happen?
The Rising was the result of a resurgence of Irish nationalism in the late 19th and early 20th century. Cultural organizations such as the Gaelic Athletic Association (which promoted Irish sports such as hurling and Gaelic football) and the Gaelic League (which pushed the revival of the Irish language) helped generate a new sense of shared identity. This led to increased pressure for Home Rule (a limited form of independence) among moderate nationalists and complete independence among radicals. By 1913, Northern Unionists who opposed Irish nationalism were mobilizing against proposals for Home Rule, setting up an armed organization called the Ulster Volunteer Force.
This led Irish nationalists to set up their own organization, the Irish Volunteers in 1913, which was nominally led by my great-grandfather, Eoin MacNeill. This organization soon split over disagreements about whether Irish men should volunteer to fight in World War I, and the remnant of the organization became dominated by the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), a radical group that wanted complete independence, if necessary through armed insurrection.
The IRB, together with the Irish Citizen Army, a much smaller left-wing organization, decided that the time was right to strike against Britain. Without informing MacNeill and other leaders, they decided to mobilize the organization across the country for an armed rebellion on Easter Sunday 1916. MacNeill, who heard about the rebellion at the last moment, issued a countermanding order that was published in a national newspaper. The result was that very little happened outside Dublin.