World History 2 185 - 11.4.4 The Easter Rising

Tensions between Ireland and Britain can be traced to the twelfth century when the English seized Ireland. The political issue of home rule for Ireland was the most contentious one between the two in the early twentieth century. If approved, home rule would offer Ireland its own parliament and rights to deal with domestic issues rather than having to listen to the dictates of London. Support for it had grown significantly, and it had even been partially approved at the time of the war. But Protestant Unionists in the north of Ireland, who approved of the union with Britain and feared a Catholic-dominated Irish government, worried they would be discriminated against if home rule were enacted. The question was tabled while the British government focused on the war effort.

Irish nationalists were frustrated by the delay, however, and some wanted even more change, not simply home rule but an independent Ireland. The cause of Irish nationalism drove Ireland to begin talks with Germany, since the two shared the common enemy of Britain, and the Irish Republican Brotherhood organized an uprising to be supported by German weapons. When the weapons failed to arrive, the Brotherhood decided to continue with the rebellion anyway. The Easter Rising began on April 24, 1916, and lasted for several days. Irish nationalists announced the establishment of the Irish Republic and seized key buildings in Dublin. The British responded with military force, and the clashes between the two groups resulted in thousands of casualties, including many civilians. As the Irish revolutionaries surrendered, unable to withstand the trained military troops, they found themselves subject to harsh punishment, and many of the rebellion’s leaders were executed.

The British response further drove the radicalism of many Irish youth. After the war, the counties of the south organized to form the Irish Free State, which today has become the Republic of Ireland. The northern counties are still part of the United Kingdom.

The content of this course has been taken from the free World History, Volume 2: from 1400 textbook by Openstax