Freedom: A 1916 Story

Hey Mam Hey Rory. How was your day at school? Ahh it was pretty boring Boring? What do you mean boring. Eh… Don’t they teach kids anything in school anymore? We learn lots of stuff grandad O yeah… what? O…the Christmas Rising? The what? The Christmas Rising Grandad, where Ireland lost at independence. Easter Rising Rory. Easter! Do you know why they call it that? Ehhhhhhhh…….nope Because it happened at Easter Ahhh now I get it What kind of gobble-di-gook do they teach at that school. Take a seat, and I’ll tell you the real story of the Easter Rising. It all began with the notion of a
city taking on an empire. It was 1914 and World War One had just begun Which meant that Ireland’s main hope of independence, Home Rule, was postponed. This led to a massive split in the Irish Volunteers, which were the closest thing we had to an army at that time. The majority of the volunteers went to fight for Britain in the war. Leaving only a few thousand at home to fight for independence. Some say the revolution began the previous year at the funeral of a leading patriot O’Donovan Rossa. “Our foes are strong, and wise, and wary; but strong and wise and wary as they are, they cannot undo the miracles of God, Who ripens in the hearts of young men the seeds sown by the young men of a former generation.” “The defenders of this realm have worked well in secret and in the open….. but the fools, the fools, the fools! they have left us our Fenian dead” But to fight an army as powerful as the British we’d need weapons of our own, which at the time we weren’t allowed to have. So we decided to smuggle them in by yacht into Howth harbour. But weapons are only a pebble on the road to revolution. To really capture the minds and spirits of the Irish people we’d need words of inspiration. Thus the proclamation was drafted up and thousands of copies printed So we had words and weapons but
now we needed a plan. Our leaders met in secret and decided to take control of Dublin during Easter by occupying key locations all around the city However, insufficient weapons and a lack of support forced our leaders to make a hard decision. All volunteers were ordered to stand down. However a small group of rebels ignored the order and despite their low numbers decided to go ahead with the Rising. Now the main location was the General Post Office or the GPO as it’s known.. Why did they take over a post office Grandad? Well back then there were no emails or text messages or Facebooks. All communication came through the post office So if you controlled that then you controlled the flow of information. Yes Rory? They had wifi though right? No. Not even Wifi! Rory Gasps! But it was the first revolution to be broadcast by wireless, ah but that’s another story. So on Easter Monday the Volunteers pretended to parade down O’Connell street but just as they drew level with the GPO, they charged towards it and quickly seized the building In fact nearly all the locations were seized with little or no resistance. Most of the British soldiers were off fighting in World War One. And those that remained in Ireland were not expecting an attack. We caught them off guard. Hand it over! Then came the reading of the proclamation itself. “Irishmen and Irishwomen….” No one really appreciated the significance of what Pearse was saying, most people just saw it as a nuisance. It wasn’t until rebels opened fired on some British cavalry that people began to appreciate the seriousness of the matter. The Rising wasn’t without its flaws though. For example no attempt was made to seize Trinity College. Which at the time housed a large number of weapons with very few soldiers guarding them. Another key location was St Stephen’s Green. Rebels decided the best way to defend it would be to dig trenches and await a British attack. However unknown to the rebels, a small group of British soldiers had spotted this And under the cover of darkness made their way up to the Shelbourne hotel rooftop. When daylight came, the British had a clear view of the rebels below and opened fire. The rebels were sitting ducks and were forced to retreat Positions were fortified in whatever way they could be n the rooftop of Marrowbone Lane Distillery, a rebel soldier used broomsticks to look like sniper rifles and confuse the British. “Blimey men there’s dozens of ’em! The city descended into chaos. Barricades were erected, shops were looted. At first we held Dublin with relative ease, repelling any British attacks with little to no losses. However this would soon change. The British sent General Maxwell to squash this rebellion and he arrived in Dublin to take charge of thousands of reinforcements. This was the beginning of the end. Martial law was declared in Dublin Ammunition began to run low. The number of injured and dead was rapidly rising. Victory it seemed was impossible. On Saturday April the 30th the white flag of surrender was waved on Moore street. Six days of intense fighting had left the city in ruins. Rebels were imprisoned and the leaders carted off to Kilmainham Gaol for execution. They all died? Sadly yes. That’s a terrible ending Grandad. It’s the truth So that’s it, it was all for nothing. Not for nothing. Those brave men and women gave their lives for something far more valuable. Something which because of their sacrifice we still have today. It’s the cornerstone of our identity, the pride of our small nation. Yes? Well? Well what? The answer. Our cornerstone, our pride. It’s Freedom. Didn’t I say that? Nope. Apologies Rory, I thought I’d said it. Its freedom. Ahhh now I really get it. The seven men who signed the proclamation were P.H. Pearse James Connolly Thomas J. Clarke Thomas Mac Donagh Seán Mac Diarmada Joseph Plunkett Éamonn Ceannt

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