Easter Monday. Thus far Ireland has been spared the destruction sweeping Europe. Many Irishmen have fought and died in the British army but there has been no fighting in Ireland itself. That changes today. In Dublin at around midday some 1,200 rebels fan out and seize buildings across the city. They establish their headquarters in the General Post Office on Sackville Street. Other sites are chosen to block the approach of British reinforcements.
The rebels’ leaders are members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, a secret society devoted to ending British rule in Ireland. The rank and file come mostly from the Irish Volunteers, a nationalist militia. A small number are members of the Irish Citizen Army, a socialist militia commanded by James Connolly. As a result of the confusion of the last few days the rebels’ numbers are much lower than they might have been and there is little organised activity outside Dublin, but the rebels are still ready to take on the British Empire.
The Rising’s leader is Patrick Pearse, a poet and educationalist. At the GPO he reads a proclamation of Ireland’s independence, revealing the existence of a provisional government to which all Irish people owe allegiance. The rebels propose to achieve Irish freedom primarily through their own efforts but they note the support of their “gallant allies in Europe”, a clear reference to Germany.
Despite the strange events of the last week, the rebellion takes the British completely by surprise. Dublin Castle, the seat of British power in Ireland, almost falls to a rebel detachment, only remaining in British hands because the rebels lose their nerve and retreat. But after the initial shock, the British quickly regain their poise. Reinforcements are summoned from Britain and elsewhere in Ireland. In Dublin the Castle is secured and British troops begin to establish a cordon around the rebel positions.
James Connolly (UCC Multitext Project in Irish History)
Patrick Pearse (1916 Rebellion Walking Tour)
1916 Proclamation (Centenary Mayo)