The Easter Rising
The Easter Rising was a major armed insurrection launched by Irish nationalists in spring 1916, with the aim of establishing an independent Irish republic. The uprising was suppressed by British forces within days, but the reaction to it contributed to a rise in Irish republicanism that ultimately led to the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922.
Since 1800, when the Acts of Union created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Irish opposition to the Acts took various forms. Some campaigned for Home Rule, which would have granted Ireland responsibility for domestic affairs but retained its place within a federal United Kingdom, while others sought to found a wholly independent Irish republic.
After the failure of two Home Rule bills (in 1886 and 1893), a third Home Rule bill was introduced to parliament in 1912. The bill inspired the formation of two rival armed groups: the unionist Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), which vowed to resist the introduction of home rule by force, and the secessionist Irish Volunteers, founded to advance the aims of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB). In 1914, with the outbreak of the First World War and the prospect of conscription in Ireland, the IRB decided to plan an armed insurrection against the British.
On 24 April 1916, Easter Monday, approximately 1,600 men of the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizens’ Army marched into central Dublin and seized a number of key buildings. Standing on the steps of the General Post Office, rebel leader Patrick Pearse declared Ireland to be an independent republic, and announced the formation of a provisional government drawn from members of the IRB. The British immediately placed Ireland under martial law and acted quickly to suppress the insurrection, deploying thousands of troops, an armed river vessel, and artillery. Outnumbered and overwhelmed, and after bloody clashes with the army and police forces, Pearse announced an unconditional surrender on 29 April 1916.
The Easter Rising was brief but costly. A total of 485 people were killed, more than half of them civilians. The toll included 58 rebels, 107 members of the British armed forces and 13 police officers. Many buildings in Dublin sustained serious damage and more than 3,500 people were arrested. Fifteen republican leaders were executed following courts-martial, all but one within a fortnight of Pearse’s surrender.
The British reaction to the Easter Rising contributed to a rise in support for the nationalist cause, and the republican movement’s increased momentum eventually led to the Irish War of Independence (1919-21) and the establishment of an Irish Free State through the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty.