The Irish Revolution, 1916-1923

The Irish Revolution, 1916-1923 by Marie Coleman Read Free Book Online

Book: The Irish Revolution, 1916-1923 by Marie Coleman Read Free Book Online
Authors: Marie Coleman
Tags: General, History, 20th Century, Europe, Modern, Great Britain, Ireland
of Sinn Féin, the Gaelic League and the Volunteers and raid these organisations’ headquarters and the leaders’ homes. This castle document has long been considered to have been substantially forged by Plunkett in an effort to deceive MacNeill. While it was certainly doctored, it appears to have been based on genuine plans drawn up by the administration outlining precautions to be undertaken in the event of conscription being extended to Ireland (McGarry, 2010: 117; Townshend, 2005: 131–3). By Holy Thursday 1916 the Rising was set to proceed three days later on Easter Sunday, 23 April 1916, with MacNeill having agreed to the use of the Volunteers and a consignment of arms en route from Germany aboard the Aud .
    The Aud arrived as scheduled in Tralee on Holy Thursday. Although British intelligence was aware of it, no action was taken to intercept it. To have done so, would have revealed to the Germans that the British had broken their codes. Allowing the Aud to land might also have resulted in the capture of a greater number of the conspirators. It has also been suggested that permitting the landing was a propaganda ploy aimed at showing up the treachery of both the Irish revolutionaries and their German collaborators, and less plausibly that elements within the British administration wanted the Rising to proceed in order to provide an excuse for repressing militant nationalism. Whatever the reason, an opportunity to halt the Rising was deliberately passed up (McGarry, 2010: 114; Townshend, 2005: 126–7; Foy and Barton, 1999: 65–7).
    A planned rendezvous with the U-boat carrying Casement failed, partly because of the absence of radio communication on the Aud and the poornavigation of its captain, Karl Spindler. An exhausted Casement, who had spent a week cramped in the submarine, came ashore on Banna strand on Good Friday morning, where he was arrested by police who had been alerted to the presence of a suspicious figure. The following day, aware of the failure of his mission, Spindler scuttled the Aud and the chances of the Rising succeeding sank along with the arms intended for the Volunteers. The local Kerry Volunteers were partly to blame for the fiasco, having failed to keep watch for the Aud or pick up Casement (Townshend, 2005: 128–31).
    On receipt of the news that Casement had been captured and the German arms sabotaged, Eoin MacNeill decided to cancel the involvement of the Volunteers in the Rising, realising there was no chance of success. He also discovered that he had been deceived about the nature of the castle document. On Easter Sunday morning a notice was published in the Sunday Independent newspaper announcing that orders for Volunteer mobilisation were ‘hereby rescinded, and no parades, marches, or other movements of the Irish Volunteers will take place’ (Townshend, 2005: 138–9). The plans of the military council were in disarray, without either the munitions or the personnel to put their insurrection into effect.

    In spite of MacNeill's action, the military council, and Clarke and Pearse in particular, felt they had gone too far with their plans to abandon them and decided merely to postpone rather than cancel the Rising. This decision was taken with the knowledge that the Rising could not succeed but would have symbolic significance. It raises the question of whether Pearse intended the Rising to be a blood sacrifice. The man most closely associated with the Rising was a relative newcomer to revolutionary life. A trained lawyer, who had dedicated much of his career until that point to education through his Irish-language school, St Enda's, Pearse was a home ruler until the early 1910s. The strength of Ulster unionist resistance to home rule, the fear of it being defeated and the opportunity offered by the First World War drove him into the IRB and the Irish Volunteers (Augusteijn, 2010: 281). Some of his writings provide evidence of his belief in the efficacy of blood-letting:

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