Many of Ireland’s great Fenians scattered to the wind to avoid prison when their various uprisings failed. More than few of them ended up on America’s shores and promptly set about creating organizations that furthered the Irish cause within the United States. One of those powerful men was John O’Mahony, the founding member of the Fenian Brotherhood in America.
Love him or hate him, Eamon De Valera was perhaps the most influential man in Irish History, despite the fact that he was born in the United States. He helped create the political machine of modern Ireland and his influence is still being felt (and untangled) today, forty-one years after his death.
One hundred years ago today, Roger Casement was executed at Pentonville Prison in London. In record time, Casement had gone from being a world-renowned humanitarian and a Knight in high standing to a treasonous pervert who was shunned by many of those he once called friends. He was hanged on August 3rd, 1916, for his failed attempt to bring German support and weaponry to Ireland for the Easter Rising and for other “crimes” he committed in his pursuit for Irish freedom.
Casement’s knightly betrayal embarrassed the English government and they were not content to simply kill him.They stripped him of his knighthood and thoroughly destroyed his reputation before making him face the noose. He was the only man associated with the Rising who was killed in this fashion and the only one who died on foreign soil. This was an added insult to someone who had devoted many years of his life to Ireland and its fight for independence.
No matter where you are in Ireland, Dublin is not usually more than a few hours away. Yes, if you don’t have a car (and who can with those insurance rates?) it can be a hassle to get to, but nearly every region has some form of direct transportation in and out of Dublin. That’s important because I’m about to suggest that you take advantage of those routes and hightail it over to the city this weekend.
The English government could never really figure out how to deal with Sinn Fein or its increasing popularity after the Easter Rising of 1916. They blamed the insurrection on the “Shinners” even though the burgeoning political party had little to do with the battle and they were surprised when much of the Irish population flocked to the organization after the government executed all the leaders of the Rising. They tried to downplay Sinn Fein’s popularity and remove its influence on many occasions, but most of the time whatever they tried had the opposite result. The same was true when the government decided to arrest nearly every leading ‘Shinner’ in Ireland ninety-eight years ago today.
On May 4th, 1916, the executions of the leaders of the Easter Rising continued. Joseph Mary Plunkett, William (Willie) Pearse, Edward (Ned) Daly, and Michael O’Hanrahan were shot in the yard at Kilmainham Gaol in the early hours of the morning.
On May 3rd, 1916, Grace Gifford walked into a jewelry store in Dublin. Her eyes were red and she had obviously been crying. She bought her own ring and left with it in hand. Grace was on her way to Kilmainham Gaol to marry Joseph Plunkett, the love of her life. She knew that her family didn’t approve and that she’d be a widow just a few hours after the wedding but she chose to marry him anyway. The executions of the leaders of the Easter Rising had begun that same day. Patrick Pearse, Tom Clarke, and Thomas MacDonagh were executed for their roles in the Easter Rising and her beloved would soon join them.
April 29th looms ever closer and the Centenary celebration truly comes to a close…at least until May when the executed leaders will be remembered a hundred years after they were killed. The surrender was originally offered on behalf of the revolution by Elizabeth O’Farrell, but the English would not accept it from a woman. She returned with Patrick Pearse and stood at his side when he offered it himself to “prevent the further slaughter of the civilian population and in the hope of saving our followers, now hopelessly surrounded and outnumbered”. Some argue that it was no surrender at all, but rather a pause to prevent the loss of innocent life because the leaders knew the fight for Irish freedom would continue, with or without them. Others couldn’t bear the thought of standing down for anything, even if their leaders were asking them to. The end to the Easter Rising is a fact, but were the rebels defeated?
That’s a question I’ve been studying for a long, long time and my answer is still yes and no. It’s also for a different post, because this one is about what you can do in Dublin on April 29th to commemorate the close of the battle and to lend your support to those who are still fighting to save one of the most important areas of the city.
In honor of Margaret Pearse who died 84 years ago today I thought I’d share the bit I wrote about her in my book, Petticoats, Patriots, and Partition. Many women suffered incredible loss during Ireland’s revolutionary period, but Margaret had a special kind of pain, losing both of her only sons. We are days away from their commemoration times and remembrances, so I thought Margaret should have hers too.
Yesterday’s plan was to observe and walk behind the 1916 Societies’ Easter Commemoration parade, being a proper journalist and chronicling the march. Instead, upon arrival at the GPO, my traveling companion and I were handed the Cumann na mBan flag to hold while the two ladies it belonged to got to know us and socialized with other parade organizers. When the flag was taken up to join the others of the parade, the women invited us to join them in carrying the Constance Markievicz banner, and we were given pride of place near the very front of the march. It was an amazing experience and beyond my wildest imagination of what yesterday could be.