Tag Archives: Easter Rising

Brexit and Rising could impact Northern Ireland

A referendum on whether the United Kingdom should exit the European Union could have a big impact in Northern Ireland. The so-called Brexit vote could come as early as this summer or get pushed deep into 2017. The International Business Times writes:

Economists and politicians opposed to leaving the European Union warn that a Brexit would fracture Northern Irish peace by further isolating it from the Republic of Ireland and cutting off local communities from international funding, sending ripple effects throughout the U.K. Supporters of a Brexit, however, said Northern Ireland already has systems in place to continue political and economic relationships with Ireland, facilitating an easy transition out of the EU.

The Irish Times adds that the Republic also has a great deal riding on the Brexit result. The concerns stem primarily from the close economic ties between the two states, particularly in two areas.

First, the UK is by some distance the Republic’s largest trading partner, accounting for 43 per cent of exports by Southern firms in 2012. Second, the two countries’ energy markets are deeply entwined: Ireland imports 89 per cent of its oil products and 93 per cent of its gas from its nearest neighbor.

Meanwhile, this year’s 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising in the Republic is also causing concerns about the North. The Guardian reports:

“…the centenary of the rebellion in Dublin has raised fears that celebrating the exploits of the lightly armed rebels who took on the British army could destabilize the still fragile peaceful political settlement in Northern Ireland, with dissident republicans claiming they are the true inheritors of Easter Week 1916. … Unionists and some historians have expressed concern that the centenary may be used by anti-peace process republicans to claim the 1916 rebellion is “unfinished business.”

Countdown begins to 1916 Rising centennial

The passing of Easter brings more than a year of events to remember the 1916 Rising. The Republic’s official program begins 1 August with a commemorative re-enactment of the funeral of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa. It concludes 3 August 2016 with a commemoration of the execution of Roger Casement.

Here in Washington, D.C., a three-week festival of Irish arts will be staged 16 May to 5 June, 2016, at the John F Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts. I expect other events will appear in the year ahead.

Stories and specialized websites about the centennial are blossoming all over the Web. Here’s a small sampling, which I’ll update in future posts.

Easter Rising: The view from Washington, D.C.

I recently Tweeted:

Dueling Risings? I’ve just discovered & Followed @1916Centenary and @lrishRepublic. Both are nice adds to other centennial sites. #history

I received reply Tweets from both micoblogs, which are each dedicated to the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising. In that spirit, and still less than one week into my move to Washington, D.C., I decided to dive into The Washington Post‘s coverage of events in Dublin on 24 April 1916. (I can’t link here due to proprietary archive service.)

The Post‘s first story appeared on 26 April, in the top left corner of the front page. Here are the multiple headlines:

Battle in Dublin streets;

Rebels hold parts of city;

Grave Irish revolt begun

British Admit 12 Killed, 18 Wounded;

Losses of Revolutionists Said to

Be Several Hundred.

Postoffice and Many Buildings Seized by Revolutionists and Are Used as Forts — Troops are Hurried From Military Camps Nearby, and More May Be Sent From England — Uprising Regarded as Climax of Movement Engineered by Sir Roger Casement — Spread to Southern Centers Is Now Feared in London.

The story was datelined from London on 25 April. It began:

Almost coincidental with the capture of Sir Roger Casement, leader of the separatist faction in Ireland, while he was attempting to land arms from Germany on the coast of Ireland, there has occurred in Ireland a revolutionary outbreak of considerable proportions.

The Post published an early 20th century view of Sackville Street on page 2, taken before the Rising, to point out the rebel stronghold at the General Post Office, described as “an imposing stone structure … admirably built to serve as a fortress if properly manned by guns.”

The GPO in the aftermath of the 1916 Easter Rising.

The GPO and Nelson’s Pillar in the aftermath of the 1916 Easter Rising. (This is not the image that appeared in the Washington Post.)

A good description of the building and the situation, but there is a problem with the picture Post readers viewed in April 1916. The black and white image appears to have been flopped, a common error in early 20th century and later newspaper reproduction. The photo shows the [Daniel] O’Connell Monument in the foreground with Nelson’s Pillar further beyond in the center of Sackville Street. The GOP is shown to the right side of the image. Correct me if I’m wrong here, but the GPO should be on the left side of the street in an image taken with the photographer’s back to the Liffey.

I’ll delve more into the Post‘s coverage of the Rising in future posts.

Good Friday’s 15th, Easter’s 97th

The actually anniversary dates don’t come until later in April, but the movable Holy Week calendar reminds us of two important anniversaries: the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 and the Easter Rising of 1916.

“Fifteen years on, despite periodic setbacks, [the GFA] has delivered on its promise by bringing a deadly conflict with centuries-old political and religious roots almost to end,” World News Forecast says in a preview piece. Of course Union Jack demonstrations and the reemergence of dissident republican groups remind us that not all “the troubles” are in the past.

As for the 1916 Easter proclamation, it famously begins, “Irishmen and Irishwomen…” Here’s a piece from Dublin People headlined “The women of 1916.”


For Downton Abbey fans, a primer on revolutionary Ireland


What’s going to happen to Tom Branson and Lady Sybil?

As “Downton Abbey” fans watch Sunday for the next plot twists of the popular “Masterpiece” series on PBS, some might be wondering about the backdrop in Ireland at the time. Season Three begins with Tom and Sybil living in 1920s Dublin.

Here’s a quick primer on what happened in Irish politics immediately before and during this period:

Season One of “Downton Abbey” begins in April 1912 with news of the Titanic disaster. Men like Branson were talking again about Ireland becoming an independent country after centuries of English (and later British) rule. In the spring of 1914, the British Parliament authorized a form of limited domestic autonomy for Ireland called home rule. But the political accommodation was immediately suspended due to the outbreak of war with Germany. Matthew Crawley and the footmen William and Thomas fight; Branson didn’t go because as an Irish national, he wasn’t subject to the draft.

Though Britain promised to reinstate home rule after the war, militant republican factions among Irish nationalists grew restless. (Here, “republican” means favoring elected representation instead of a monarchy, not the American political party.)  At Easter 1916, republicans launched an insurrection in Dublin by seizing several government buildings and posting the Proclamation of the Irish Republic:

IRISHMEN AND IRISHWOMEN: In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom…

The revolutionaries had scant support in Dublin and the rest of Ireland, since many Irish men volunteered to fight on the continent with British troops. The “Easter Rising” was crushed in a week. Branson remarks in Season Two that he would have returned to Ireland to fight with the republicans if the fighting hadn’t ended so fast. Plus, he was sweet on Sybil.

The British government soon made the tactical error of executing the revolutionary leaders. This created a backlash in Ireland (and America) that shifted popular support to the nationalist cause. By January 1919, two months after the armistice ending World War I, Irish republicans once again declared independence, established their own government in Dublin and began a guerilla war against British military and police forces. The conflict, known as the Irish War of Independence or Anglo-Irish War, took place about the time that Season Three starts.

The brutality of the period is probably best exemplified by the events of “Bloody Sunday” in November 1920. Irish republican operatives under the direction of Michael Collins carried out the assassinations of 19 British Army intelligence officers living in Dublin. The British retaliated later the same day by opening fire on the civilian crowd at a football match, killing 14 and wounding scores more.

The two sides reached a ceasefire in the summer of 1921 and began to negotiate a peace treaty. In early 1922 this resulted in the creation of the Irish Free State for 26 counties in southern Ireland. Six northeast counties remained linked to Britain and were partitioned as Northern Ireland.

Free State status was similar to Britain’s arrangements with Canada and Australia. It provided more domestic autonomy than originally contemplated by home rule, but Ireland remained under the monarchy and far short of an independent republic. This caused a split between hardline republicans and moderate nationalists. The ensuing Irish Civil War over the next year claimed more lives than the three-year conflict with Britain.

The Free State forces prevailed by the summer of 1923 and a decade of violence in Ireland finally came to an end. The 26 counties of the south would not achieve republic status until 1949. The six northeast counties remain partitioned to this day.

For “Downton” fans looking for more details, the BBC has an excellent online presentation that explores the entire period “through essays, photographs, sound archive, music and newspapers from the period.” The Irish Bureau of Military History also has a deep archive of interviews, maps and images from the war years.