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O'Brien believes that the roots of the rebellion started when the British House of Commons introduced a bill that offered limited independence to Ireland but the House would still retain complete power to nullify or amend any laws passed by the newly created Irish House of Commons and Senate. A more immediate event may have been the harbinger of the 1916 uprising by adding fuel to an already burning fire.
William Martin Murphy, an industrialist, conducted a lockout of a number of workers who were participants in the Irish Transport and General Worker's Union (ITGWU). Murphy was worried that a union would lead its workers to demand more and more freedoms. By the time the dispute was over more than 400 employers had locked out over 20,000 workers. The dispute ended six months later when the workers were forced to return to work or face starvation. It was at this time that James Connolly created the Irish Citizens Army as a protective measure to guard against repercussions on those employees who had participated in the union.
All three groups, Sinn Fein, the Irish Citizen Army and the Gaelic League conducted military training and were active in working with American Irish organizations in gun-running and raising funds for weapons to fight a war. At the same time World War 1 was going on, and the Irish sensed an opportunity to take advantage of the circumstances. This time the Irish had two advantages; the first was that the Irish were hopeful that (after the war) home rule would be granted and in anticipation of such an event, many young Irish men joined the British army to fight against the German aggressors. It was hoped that such actions would show loyalty to the British and result in home rule. Secondly, some of the groups, including the Ireland Republican Brotherhood, had been in contact with the Germans and were planning on using them the same way they had planned to use the Russians half a century earlier.
The Germans realized that an advantage was to be had if Britian had to fight on two fronts and promised weapons and money to the Irish if they would rebel against the British. A first delivery of help arrived in a timely manner, but a week before the uprising was planned to take place word came that the German captain of the Aud, a ship carrying ammunition and weapons from Germany for the rebels, was scuttled shortly after being apprehended by a British war ship. An announcement was made later that Sir Roger Casement was captured by the British as a 'neutral merchant ship' that was in reality a German auxilliary ship attempted to land with arems and ammunition. News of this event was a motivating factor in the cancellation by Eoin MacNeill of a mobilization by a large number of volunteers. This cancellation was countermanded by the IRB's military council but many of the volunteers never received the order. Instead, they disbanded and returned to their homes on the very day they were most needed. As O'Brien wrote in Blood on the Streets, "Eoin MacNeill's decision to countermand the order was to have a detrimental effect on the Rising and especially the events that unfolded around the Mount Street Bridge area" (pg. 17).
Another factor in the futility of the uprising was the fact that the American government knew that the uprising was planned having intercepted a cable early in 1916 to Berlin from Count Bernstorff, the German Ambassador in Washington.
The cable stated that "an armed uprising was planned in Dublin for April 23rd, Easter Sunday, and requesting that 50,000 rifles with machineguns and field guns be supplied to the Nationalists" (Nicholas, 2007, pg. 56).
Most of the experts believe that the uprising was poorly planned and poorly executed and that it would have had a much higher chance of success if MacNeill had not published his rescinding of the order to mobilize. In fact, one of the main objects of interest by the Irish was to capture the Dublin Castle, which was the headquarters of the Irish Executive. The Easter Rebellion Handbook states, "Dublin Castle...was attacked by a handful of Volunteers, and had any force of Sinn Feiners joined in the attack they would most certainly have captured the castle, as there were only a few soldiers on duty" (Kiberd, 2000, pg. 4). That the Germans were not coming was a lost fact on many of the insurgents, and in fact many of them may have believed that the Germans were going to make a major push at the same time as the uprising. "One Dublin citizen, a Robert Tweedy, wrote to his mother in London that, in his opinion the insurgents were convinced that they were taking part in a great German push by sea and land, and they had adopted defensive tactics from the beginning" (Warwick-Haller, 1995, pg. 23).
Perhaps what was needed in this case was more American influence. It seemed as if there were quite a gap between the planning and the exeuction as the events unfolded. There was one bright spot, (if that is what the perception is) in regards to the uprising.
The Irish Volunteers rebuffed the British at the Mount Street Bridge. The British decided that a frontal assault could be made to recapture the bridge from the Volunteers but did not count on the ferocity of some of these patriots. It was there that "seventeen men inflicted 234 casualties on the British (four officers killed and fourteen wounded, 216 other ranks killed and wounded) and even help up assaults backed by armoured cars at an eventual loss to themselves of five dead" (O'Donnell, 2008, pg. 192). While many of the volunteers from Sinn Fein, the IRB and other groups showed great courage and persistence, many of the leaders of the uprising lacked military experience and the expertise to lead men in battle. This was one area where the American influence could have been much more strongly asserted and may have saved a number of lives during the process. Perhaps the MP's were correct when they stated, "the nationalists and republicans wer foolishly attempting to 'force' people into a rebellion that could not possibly succeed and were so living in a dreamland" (McGee, pg. 329).
There were some positive aspects to the uprising, although they were limited in scope. Ruan O'Donnell writes that the impact of losing the fight actually resulted in some good for Ireland. According to O'Donnell it was the "actions of the British government, not those of Irish republicans that provided the greatest threat to the harmonious working together of the Protestants and the Catholics" (O'Donnell, pg. 214). Perhaps, as stated earlier, the citizens of Ireland needed a further reminder of just how far they needed to go before they would achieve independence.
It would not be until many decades later that a peaceful transition to home rule would actually take place. Even though they have achieved many of their goals many of the Irish groups continue to argue and fight amongst themselves, and in fact, a 2006 Sunday Tribune article states, "The oldest and most important Irish republican political organization in the United States, Clan Na Gael, is in the process of splitting over disagreements about the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process strategy of the Provisional leadership" (Moloney, 2006).
American influence can be a strength to the Irish people, but whether that influence will result in less bickering and fighting amongst the many groups is still yet to be determined.
Devoy, J.; (1924) Story of the Clan na Gael, Gaelic American
Kautt, W.H.; (1999) Anglo-Irish War, 1916-1921: A People's War, Westport, Conn.: Praeger Press
Kiberd, D.; (2000) 1916 Easter Rebellion Handbook, Dublin: Irish Academic Press
McGee, O.; (2005) The IRB: From the Land League to Sinn Fein, England: Free Courts Press
Moloney, E, (2006) www.nuzhound.comClanna Gael split a worry for Sinn Fein, Accessed 24 Feb 2009.
Nicholas, D.; (2007) Lucky break, History Today, Vol. 57, No. 9, pp. 56-57
O'Brien, P.; (2008) Blood on the streets, Cork, EU:…[continue]
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