The events of Easter 1916 are of seminal importance in Irish history. What began as a small uprising in the centre of Dublin on Easter Monday set in motion a series of developments which ultimately led to Irish independence. Eamonn Duggan begins an overview of what was to become a momentous year in Irish history, setting out what was happening in the country in the early months of the year leading up to the Easter Rising and gauging the impact of its aftermath.
“The IRB will await a decision of the Irish nation as expressedby a majority of the Irish people as to the fit hour of inaugurating a war against England.” IRB Constitution
When the New Year dawned across Ireland in 1916, there was little evidence to suggest that the majority of the people were ready to inaugurate a war against England. In fact, there was every indication that the majority were very comfortable with Ireland being in the United Kingdom and, with the prospect of Home Rule being implemented as soon as the Great War came to an end, the political aspirations of so many Irishmen and women would be realised.
Undoubtedly, there were some rumblings of discontent and men like Thomas Clarke, Padraig Pearse and Seán MacDiarmada, among others, were well known to the authorities in Dublin Castle as probable revolutionaries. However, in the main, the people of Ireland lived in a society very much under the influence of their neighbour across the Irish Sea.
The prevailing language was English, the currency was tied to the British pound, the law and courts were similar to that of England and the influence of England in sports and leisure activities was still very apparent despite the emergence of the Gaelic Athletic Association, the Gaelic League and the Irish Literary Revival movement.
In many ways Ireland in early 1916 was a mirror image of her powerful neighbour and there was little to suggest that by the end of the year the tide of public opinion would have changed to such an extent that the breaking of the link with England became a vitally important political objective for so many people.