23/4/1916 Ireland: the Easter Rising fails to materialise

Easter Sunday. In Ireland today was to have been the day when rebels across the country rose up to overthrow British rule. The Irish Republican Brotherhood have infiltrated the Irish Volunteers, a nationalist militia, and were going to use it as the main force of the rising. The Volunteers’ commander, Eoin MacNeill, is not a member of the IRB but he was persuaded to support the revolt by a document stolen from Dublin Castle revealing that the British authorities were about to suppress the Volunteers and order mass arrests of Irish nationalists. The IRB had also recruited the socialist leader James Connolly to their ranks. His Irish Citizen Army were to join in the rebellion.

But the IRB’s plans have gone awry. A German ship, disguised as the Norwegian steamer the Aud, was to have brought arms from Germany. However a series of mishaps and miscommunications meant there was no one to receive its cargo when it arrived in Tralee Bay. The ship was then intercepted by the British navy and scuttled by its crew.

In a separate blow, the authorities managed to intercept two Irish rebels who had been landed by U-boat on the south west coast of Ireland. They are Roger Casement and Daniel Bailey. Casement is a former British diplomat, famed for his work in exposing the ghastly horrors of the Belgian colonial regime in the Congo. He subsequently embraced Irish nationalism and went to Germany at the war’s start, hoping to secure German help for an Irish revolt. He assisted efforts to enlist captured Irish troops into a pro-German Irish Brigade; Bailey was one of the Irish Brigade’s few recruits.

These mishaps shake MacNeill’s belief that the rising has any chance of success. He also belatedly realises that the “Castle Document” outlining British plans for mass arrests and the Volunteers’ suppression is a forgery. He orders a halt to the today’s Volunteer manoeuvres that were to be a cover for the beginning of the revolt.

So today there is no rising. But its would-be leaders meet in secret in Dublin. They decide that they will stage their rebellion tomorrow with whatever men they can summon by word of mouth. Their numbers will be far lower than if the planned revolt today had gone ahead. Their chances of success are slim but they are ready to face the might of the British Empire.

image sources:

newspaper (RTE Century Ireland)

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