Documents about the Easter Rising

Irish side

The April 24, 1916 - Easter Monday - from the steps of the General Post Office on O'Connell Street in Dublin, Patrick Pearse proclaimed the Republic of Ireland. It started the Easter Rising of 1916 .

POBLACHT NA h-EIREANN - THE PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT OF THE IRISH REPUBLIC TO THE PEOPLE OF IRELAND

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.

Having organized and trained her manhood through her secret revolutionary organization, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and through her open military organizations, the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army, having patiently perfected her discipline, having resolutely waited for the right moment to reveal itself, she now seizes that moment, and, supported by her exiled children in America and by gallant allies in Europe, but relying in the first on her own strength, she strikes in full confidence of victory.

We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible.  The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people.  In every generation the Irish people have asserted their right to national freedom and sovereignty; six times during the past three hundred years they have asserted it in arms.  Standing on that fundamental right and again asserting it in arms in the face of the world, we hereby proclaim the Irish Republic as a Sovereign Independent State.  And we pledge our lives and the lives of our comrades-in-arms to the cause of its freedom, of its welfare, and of its exaltation among the nations.

The Irish Republic is entitled to, and hereby claims, the allegiance of every Irishman and Irish woman.  The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities of all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority in the past.

Until our arms have brought the opportune moment for the establishment of a permanent National Government, representative of the whole people of Ireland and elected by the suffrages of all her men and women, the Provision Government, hereby constituted, will administer the civil and military affairs of the Republic in trust for the people.

We place the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most High God, Whose blessing we invoke upon our arms, and we pray that no one who serves that cause will dishonour it by cowardice, inhumanity, or rapine.  In this supreme hour the Irish nation must, by its valour and discipline and by the readiness of its children to sacrifice themselves for the common good, prove itself worthy of the august destiny to which it is called.

Signed on behalf of the Provisional Government,

THOMAS J. CLARKE
SEAN MAC DIERMADA
THOMAS MACDONAGH
P.H. PEARSE
EAMONN CEANNT
JAMES CONNOLLY
JOSEPH PLUNKETT

 

British side

Sir John French, after leaving the command of the British troops on Western Front, returned to England to be appointed Commander-in-Chief of the British Home Forces. The most notable action of French's command was the suppression of the Easter Rising. On the evening of 26 April 1916, French selected Sir John Maxwell as military governor of Ireland with plenary powers under Martial law. During the week 2–9 May, Maxwell was in sole charge of trials and sentences by "field general court martial", which was trial without defence or jury and in camera. He had 3,400 people arrested, 183 civilians tried, 90 of whom were sentenced to death. Fifteen were shot between 3 and 12 May. Below is reproduced the Official Report by General Maxwell on the Easter Rising.

The rebellion began by Sinn Feiners, presumably acting under orders, shooting in cold blood certain soldiers and policemen. Simultaneously they took possession of various important buildings and occupied houses along the routes in the City of Dublin, which were likely to be used by troops taking up posts.

Most of the rebels were not in any uniform, and by mixing with peaceful citizens made it almost impossible for the troops to distinguish between friend and foe until fire was opened.

In many cases troops having passed along a street seemingly occupied by harmless people were suddenly fired upon from behind from windows and roof tops.  Such were the conditions when reinforcements commenced to arrive in Dublin.

Whilst fighting continued under conditions at once so confused and so trying, it is possible that some innocent citizens were shot.  It must be remembered that the struggle was in many cases of a house-to-house character, that sniping was continuous and very persistent, and that it was often extremely difficult to distinguish between those who were or had been firing upon the troops and those who had for various reasons chosen to remain on the scene of the fighting, instead of leaving the houses and passing through the cordons.

The number of such incidents that has been brought to notice is very insignificant.

Once the rebellion started, the members of the Dublin Metropolitan Police - an unarmed uniformed force - had to be withdrawn, or they would have been mercilessly shot down, as, indeed, were all who had the bad luck to meet the rebels.  In their absence a number of the worst elements of the city joined the rebels and were armed by them.  The daily record of the Dublin Magistrates' Court proves that such looting as there was was done by such elements.

There have been numerous incidents of deliberate shooting on ambulances and those courageous people who voluntarily came out to tend to the wounded.  The City Fire Brigade, when turned out in consequence of incendiary fires, were fired on and had to retire.

As soon as it was ascertained that the rebels had established themselves in various centres, the first phase of operations was conducted with a view to isolate them by forming a cordon of troops round each.

To carry out this streets were selected along which the cordon could be drawn.  Some of these streets, for instance, North King Street, were found to be strongly held, rebels occupying the roofs of houses, upper windows, and strongly constructed barricades.

Artillery fire was only used to reduce the barricades, or against a particular house known to be strongly held.  The troops suffered severe losses in establishing these cordons, and, once established, the troops were subjected to a continuous fire from all directions, especially at night time, and invariably from persons concealed in houses.

To give an idea of the opposition offered to his Majesty's troops in the execution of their duty, the following losses occurred:

Officers 17 killed, 46 wounded
Other ranks 89 killed, 288 wounded

I wish to draw attention to the fact that, when it became known that the leaders of the rebellion wished to surrender, the officers used every endeavour to prevent further bloodshed; emissaries were sent in to the various isolated bands, and time was given them to consider their position.

I cannot imagine a more difficult situation than that in which the troops were placed; most of those employed were draft-finding battalions, or young Territorials from England, who had no knowledge of Dublin.

The surrenders, which began on April 30th, were continued until late on May 1st, during which time there was a considerable amount of isolated sniping.

Under the circumstances related above I consider the troops as a whole behaved with the greatest restraint, and carried out their disagreeable and distasteful duties in a manner which reflects the greatest credit on their discipline.

Allegations on the behaviour of the troops brought to my notice are being most carefully inquired into.  I am glad to say they are few in number, and these are not all borne out by direct evidence.

Numerous cases of unarmed persons killed by rebels during the outbreak have been reported to me.  As instances, I may select the following: J. Brien, a constable of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, was shot while on duty at Castle Gate on April 24th.  On the same day another constable of the same force named M. Lahiff was shot while on duty at St. Stephen's Green.  On April 25th R. Waters of Recess, Monkstown, County Dublin, was shot at Mount Street Bridge while being driven into Dublin by Captain Scovell, R.A.M.C. [Royal Army Medical Corps ndt].

All these were unarmed, as was Captain Scovell.  In the last case the car was not challenged or asked to stop.

I wish to emphasize that the responsibility for the loss of life, however it occurred, the destruction of property and other losses, rests entirely with those who engineered this revolt, and who, at a time when the empire is engaged in a gigantic struggle, invited the assistance and cooperation of the Germans.

Bibliography:

Michael Elliott-Bateman, John Ellis, Tom Bowden,  Revolt to revolution: studies in the 19th and 20th century. European experience. The fourth dimension of warfare, vol 2. Manchester University Press, 1974.

Encyclopedia of modern ethnic conflicts, a cura di Joseph R. Rudolph, Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002.