The Cost of the Rising

As my commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising closes out for the year, I feel that it is important to acknowledge that this conflict, like any other, had a downside. Many Irish people suffered unimaginable pain and loss because of the death and destruction that rained down on Dublin during that fateful week. There’s no real way to discern how many lives were touched by the dark side of revolution nor is it possible to gauge how long that devastation lasts. We can look at statistics and see numbers of injuries, buildings lost, and fatalities – but they do not tell us how many left Dublin or Ireland altogether because of those things, or how many families are still touched by the loss, pain, or injuries of their ancestors.

What we do know is that over 425 people died in the rising (not including the executions of the leaders) and 38 of them were children. Another thousand more were injured. More than half off these injuries and deaths were innocent bystanders and civilians. 179 buildings were damaged beyond repair or utterly razed. One hundred thousand people – roughly a third of the entire population – were given assistance in the aftermath of the conflict.

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The Foreign Fighters of 1916

Now that some of the Women of 1916 have been highlighted, it’s time to move on to another group that has been largely  left out of the history books when it comes to The Easter Rising. Many brave rebels are celebrated throughout the world every year at this time…but what is ignored by most is that the fighters were not exclusively Irish. There were more than a hundred foreign soldiers who assisted in the Rising and while some were 2nd or 3rd generation Irish there were others who had no Irish blood whatsoever. They came from all over Europe and the rest of the world to join forces against the English and were some of the fiercest warriors in the conflict.

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The Women of 1916

It is estimated that at least 200 women were involved in the Easter Rising of 1916, many more than previously thought. Their roles varied as widely as the women themselves – and ranged from the traditional fundraisers, cooks, and nurses, to the more unexpected roles of sharpshooters, spies, smugglers, and experts on explosives.  A decent effort has been made over the last few years to give them credit for the part they played in the fight for Irish freedom, but sadly, they are still largely absent from many of the narratives.

Worse still is when a historian refers to the women as “great supporters” or “brilliant fundraisers” or “backbones”. These statements are true, but they still have an air of dismissal even amidst the recognition. They still show women in supportive or secondary roles and ignore the fact that many of them saw themselves as rebels, fighters, and soldiers in their own right – regardless of whether or not there were any men around. Until more historians can acknowledge that, many of the women who continuously risked their lives during Easter Week and in the years that followed, will not get the respect and honor that they are due.

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On this day in 1916…

99 years ago today Patrick Pearse stood on the steps of the General Post Office in Dublin to recite the following Proclamation. It was a masterpiece and the only declaration of  its time to include women equally. By then he probably had it memorized but as he read it, there were about 1,000 copies being passed out to the passersby and the curious. It was the first notion many had about the chaotic uprising that was about to take over Dublin for the next few days. It read:

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 organised and trained her manhood, through her secret revolutionary organisation, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and through her open military organisations, 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 last three hundred years they have asserted it to 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 Irishwoman. The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of a whole nation and all of its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.

Until our arms have brought the opportune moment for the establishment of a permanent National, representative of the whole people of Ireland, and elected by the suffrages of all her men and women, the Provisional 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, in humanity 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 Diarmada, Thomas Mac Donagh,

P.H. Pearse, Eamonn Ceannt,

James Connolly, Joseph Plunkett

Within a week, the rising was over and all the signatories were awaiting their executions. Nine more men would join them in their deaths and countless men and women languished in prisons all over the region. But on this day in 1916, the reading of the Proclamation signaled a beginning – an idealistic and hopeful moment – before reality and half of Dublin rained down upon them in the days to come.

(Interesting little aside: Patrick Pearse was not the first to read the Proclamation aloud on the streets. It is said that Constance Markievicz beat him to the punch when she started excitedly reading it to her friends and waving it around a few minutes after it had finished printing.)

A new twist on an old poem

Now I know there’s been a lot of hullabaloo about people re-writing the Irish Proclamation—rightfully, in my opinion—so I’m aware that I could be messing around in holy ground with this one. Still, I was immensely impressed with this new take on Joseph Mary Plunkett’s “I See His Blood Upon the Rose“.  Since it is still National Poetry Month here in the United States and I posted the original over on the Facebook page during Easter Week, I thought I’d share this new one here.

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A small Turf Fire Burning…

The jet lag has kicked in and I’m having some exhaustion-related come down from my travels, but before I crash, here are just a few more shots of the amazing and poignant Irish Hunger Memorial in New York City. More photos and tales to come soon as soon as I catch up on my sleep.

 

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It really did feel like Ireland there for a minute…