2016 brings with it a special celebration and time of self-inspection for Ireland. It’s now 100 years since the 1916 East Rising, a pivotal event in forming what is now the Republic of Ireland.
It’s an emotive subject, so I’m sure just having this blog post posted will lead to some strong replies.
In 1916, Ireland was part of the United Kingdom. World War 1 was underway. And about 1,000 Irish rebels took on the British forces. At a turning point, they took over the General Post Office (GPO) in Dublin.
In his upcoming book “Ireland’s Exiled Children: America and the Easter Rising”, author Robert Schmuhl does a good job at gauging what the public opinion was around the Easter Rising. He says that not much is actually documented in Ireland about the public’s opinion. There’s much more information held in the archives of American media.
Schmuhl takes the stories of four exiled men: Devoy, Kilmer, Wilson, and de Velera. For example, Devoy was arrested for his part of revolutionary activity, and was exiled to America. He uses the stories of each of them, and how they’re related with the United States, to tell the broader story of the Easter Rising. That’s an interesting way to shine a light on what happened around the Easter Rising.
Interestingly for the Irish language, the book uses names of the rebels as they signed the proclamation of independence. Some of the men wrote their names in the Irish language, some others did not.
The book starts with a handy timeline, stretching back to the 1850s. In 1858, the secret Irish Revolutionary Brotherhood was founded, and a similar one founded over in New York. The timeline gets beefy around the events of 1914 to 1918. Of course, Ireland’s civil war in the 1920s is part of the timeline.
Early news reports in the States paralleled the Easter Rising with the 4th July. It was a bloody event, drawing comparisons with the Battle of Alamo.
Interestingly, public opinion was important back then, as indeed it is now. The general feeling from the book is that the public in the States felt the British response to the Irish uprising was too heavy handed and fuelled by the want for revenge. They had gone too far.
So if you’re looking for a well-told story, with a strong mix of America’s perspective of the 1916 Easter Rising, I do recommend the upcoming book “Ireland’s Exiled Children”, published by Oxford University Press, out in April 2016.