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To What Extent Was the Failure of the Easter Rising Due To Internal Divisions?

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Introduction

TO WHAT EXTENT WAS THE FAILURE OF THE EASTER RISING DUE TO INTERNAL DIVISIONS? The Easter Rising of 1916 had profound and far-reaching effects on Ireland's subsequent history. It has been referred to as "The Irish War of Independence" and was the pivotal event in ultimately securing independence for the Republic of Ireland. Hindsight has its defects as well as its advantages. Because the 1916 rising has lodged itself so firmly in the mythology of Irish revolution it has been easy to regard it as inevitable. But it was far from inevitable. Apart altogether from the internal divisions among the leaders which almost paralysed it at the start, the conditions precedent for a truly national insurrection were simply not in evidence. This was the point above all others that Macneill had tried to drive into the heads of his colleagues when in February 1916 he set down on paper the pros and cons of a rebellion.1 For considerable time it appeared that the critical confrontation in early twentieth-century Ireland would take place not between the British government and Irish nationalists, but between Irish capital and Irish labour, this theory was dashed in 1916.2 On Easter Monday, April 24th, 1916, a force of Irishmen and women under arms estimated at between 1,000 and 1,500 attempted to seize Dublin. Their ultimate intention was to destroy British rule in Ireland and create an entirely independent Irish Republic to include all 32 counties of Leinster, Munster, Ulster and Connaught. Their leaders Patrick Pearse, James Connolly and the others, knew their chances of success were so slight as to be almost non-existent, yet they fought and died for their love of their country. Yet if Pearse and the other leaders, expected that an insurrection would lead to a blood-sacrifice, which in time might inspire a revivified nation to wage a more successful war, this was not the view of all the revolutionaries. ...read more.

Middle

They became closely identified with Sinn Fein's anti-recruitment campaign and the broad front of Anglophobia that merged inevitably into pro-Germanism. This marked the beginning of an important shift in the balance of power within the nationalist movement. Although that only gradually became apparent, the proliferation of private and unofficial armies was enough in itself to make it imperative that the Liberal government should act quickly either to produce a settlement or to quell the gathering storm. The Irish Citizen Army had come into being during the labour dispute partly to enable the locked-out men to defend themselves in clashes with the police, and partly to combat the demoralizing effects of unemployment by giving them some cohesion and sense of purpose. It was suggested by an ex-Army officer, Captain J.R. White, that a course of drilling would help to occupy the men usefully and in November he put his plan to effect with the approval of Larkin and Connolly. Since the Irish Volunteers were being founded at the same time, it was unlikely that the Citizen Army would attract many recruits and in fact, when the men went back to work, their little force almost disappeared. The Irish Citizen Army joined forces with the IRB, and a minority of the Irish Volunteers to fight for Irish independence. The Volunteers had split after John Redmond, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, called for the Irish Volunteers to join the British army, to defend small nations against the ambitions of Germany. 170,000 men from the Volunteers, who renamed themselves the National Volunteers, supported Redmond. The minority that supported the rising numbered around 12,000, representing on the whole the more active and extreme section of the movement7, they kept the original name. At this point it seemed as though the only support for the rising was coming from Irelands everyday people, none of the important MPs who held high positions in government wanted anything to do with it. ...read more.

Conclusion

On Easter Monday there was three times more British troops and policemen than rebels, that isn't including the troops who poured into Ireland in the commencing week. Overall, the Irish rebellion did not stand a chance against the might of the British troops, with their lack of weapons, manpower and support from their fellow countrymen. I, myself, along with historians such as Lyons, believe that the failing of the Easter Rising of 1916 can not be pinned on a specific target, all the issues mentioned in the essay added their problems to the mass confusion. Although I don't believe the reason for failing can be pinned on one moment or occurrence I believe the main causes of failure were, the failings of the Germans to supply weapons and manpower and the confusion caused by MacNeill at the last minute. Even if the Germans had not been able to land weapons but all the Volunteers had turned out then I believe the Irish rebellion would have stood a much better chance against the British troops. Whether or not their rebellion had succeeded the leaders of the Easter Rising had lit the flame of rebellion for their own generation.i 1 Ireland since the famine; F.S.L.Lyons 2 Modern Ireland 1600-1972; R.F. Foster 3 A Little History of Ireland; Martin Wallace 4 Irish Rebellions 1798-1916; H. Litton 5 The Irish world: The history and cultural achievements of the Irish people - various authors (incl. Gearoid o Tuathaigh) 6 Modern Ireland: 1600-1972 - R.F.Foster 7 Life of John Redmond - D.R. Gwynn 8 Irish rebellions; 1798-1916 - Helen Litton 9 Ireland 1945-1970; J.Lee (essay) 10 Connolly Ain't Nothing but a Train Station in Dublin: The Expropriation of James Connolly's Revolutionary Legacy by Irish Republicanism; J. Dana (essay) 11 Paddy and Mr. Punch, connections in Irish and English history; R. F. Foster 12 F.S.L.Lyons; Ireland Since The Famine i Word count - 3,384 ...read more.

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