1916 Commemorations

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Political Ramifications

The political ramifications of the Rising and its suppression were soon revealed in subsequent elections. The first of these occurred on 17 February 1917 in North Roscommon, when Count Plunkett, the father of the executed Joseph Plunkett was elected as an independent who would abstain from attending Westminster. Having backed Plunkett’s campaign, Michael Collins proposed Joe McGuinness as a candidate for the South Longford seat when it fell vacant in May. At the time McGuinness was serving a sentence in Lewes gaol for his part in the Rising. Deported prisoners would provide the nucleus of a resurgent, declaredly separatist, Sinn Féin party who in October would consolidate their link with the Irish Volunteers when a former prisoner, Eamon DeValera, assumed the presidency of both organisations. That July, De Valera had won the East-Clare by-election, defeating a Home Rule candidate.
The Irish Parliamentary Party had continued in its efforts to secure Home Rule, and with a view to this end the Irish Convention first met in July 1917. Despite not concluding until April 1918, agreement could not be reached with Ulster Unionists over the issue, even though Southern Unionists were more accommodating, and Home Rule remained elusive. Simultaneously a new crisis was in its early stages. It would prove to be one which would solidify support for the new Sinn Féin.
The plan to introduce conscription into Ireland and the ensuing outcry from the public, cemented the transformation of Nationalist Ireland. Public indignation was vociferous, and a nationwide movement of resistance ensued. A one-day general strike was called and an anti-conscription pledge endorsed by Sinn Féin, the Irish Parliamentary Party, Labour and independent politicians. Despite the broad alliance formed on the issue of conscription, in the general election of 1918 Sinn Féin would secure an overwhelming victory, their declared aim being the establishment of Ireland as a recognised sovereign independent republic. Nationalist opinion had shifted
The Representation of the People Act 1918 expanded the electorate to include all men over the age of 21 and all women over the age of 30. Later that year, the Parliamentary Qualification of Women Act 1918 gave women over 30 the right to stand for election as an MP. Countess Markievicz was the first woman to be elected M.P. The December 1918 election was the first General Election since December 1910, the 1916 one being postponed because of the war. A whole new generation of voters had emerged, influenced by 1916 and its aftermath, the conscription crisis, and the war itself. Pursuing a policy of abstention from Westminister by Sinn Fein, the election led to the formation of the Dáil, a democratic institution which survived the upheaval of the tumultuous years of 1919 to 1923. 
Dáil Eireann continues today as our democratic parliament.  Many of the surviving insurgents went on to serve with distinction as members of the Dáil and Government, as well as in other institutions of the new, independent Ireland.
The 1916 Rising was a seminal event led by men and women who held aspirations of a different type of Ireland, one which would guarantee religious and civil liberty and would pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation, and all of its parts. It occurred at a time of conflict on the international stage, resulting in Irishmen losing their lives on the Western Front, Gallipoli, Mesopotamia, and at sea .The Rising resulted in the loss of many lives, be they combatants or innocent civilians. We commemorate these events on this their ninetieth anniversary and mourn the loss of all those who died.

Fact sheet

Battalions in Dublin
First battalion: Under Commandant Edward Daly, took possession of the Four Courts.

Second battalion: Commandant Thomas McDonagh – occupied Jacob’s Biscuit factory.

Third battalion: Commandant Eamon de Valera - occupied Boland’s flour mills and the railway line from Westland Row to Landsdowne Road.[intercepting the line to Kingstown]

Fourth Battalion: Commandant Eamon Ceannt occupied the South Dublin Union.[James Street Hospital].

The Citizen Army commanded by Michael Mallin and Countess Markievizc occupied St. Stephen’s Green
In the Rising, 132 members of the crown forces were killed. Official figures put rebel combatants and civilians together – 318 killed and 2,217 injured.
Republican deaths have generally agreed to number 60 or 62.  Over 250 civilians died.

Official British estimates record over 200,000 Irishmen fought in World War I with approximately 40,000 losing their lives.

The Defence Forces

The Irish Volunteers, Óglaigh na hÉireann, were founded on 25 November 1913 at a public meeting held in the Rotunda Rink in Dublin.  The movement caught the public imagination so that by mid-1914 the Irish Volunteers had a nominal membership of 180,000.  It then split over whether its members should enlist in the British Forces and fight in the European war.  A number strongly opposed this and kept the original name. 
Within the Volunteers a small number were preparing for an insurrection.  Although the Rising of 1916 ended in defeat the Volunteers fought with discipline and skill and their conduct helped to ensure that the Rising was soon looked on as something to be proud of. 

The War of Independence that followed was initiated in January 1919 by a number of young, determined Volunteer leaders.  During the war 15,000 Volunteers were actively involved, with around 3,000 in service at any given time.  From the autumn of 1919 the force had sufficient strength to attempt more spectacular actions.  By late 1920 the force had been organised into ‘flying columns’ – mobile units of about 100 men, based in remote camps or safe houses.  On 11 July a truce came into operation that ended the fighting.

At the end of the Civil War that followed the passing of the treaty the new state set about providing a legal status for its armed forces.  Under the Defence Forces (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1923 the Executive Council formally established Óglaigh na hÉireann on 1 October 1924.
On the outbreak of World War II a recruiting campaign began and an effective fighting force was quickly developed to defend our neutrality.  In April/May 1941 the strength of the Emergency Army reached a high point of almost 41,000 and in June 1943 the Local Defence Force reached a strength of 106,000.

Ireland became a member of the United Nations in 1955 and in 1958 sent military observers on a UN mission to Lebanon.  This was the beginning of the Defence Forces’ involvement in overseas service, which continues to this day.  The bulk of the tours of duty have been completed by units in major force missions deployed in the Congo, Cyprus, Lebanon, Somalia and East Timor and latterly in Liberia and Kosovo.  Other commitments have included headquarters and specialist elements, logistical units, military police units and military observers. 

In 1969 the outbreak of violence in Northern Ireland marked the start of an intense operational period for all elements of the Defence Forces.  The Peace Process, heralded by the signing of the Good Friday Agreement on April 10, 1998, has reduced the intensity of the commitment to these operations and has allowed greater emphasis on the international dimension.  Crisis management on behalf of the United Nations and response to natural disasters indicate that multinational peace support and humanitarian operations will play an increasing part in the activities of the Defence Forces which today is deployed in support of peace in 19 missions in 23 different countries.

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