On Sunday, April 9, republican groups across Ireland observed the 107th anniversary of the Easter Rising waged by Irish independence fighters against the British imperialist forces, and paid tributes to the fallen heroes of the uprising. Political parties and groups including Sinn Fein, Workers’ Party of Ireland, Communist Party of Ireland (CPI), and Connolly Youth Movement (CYM), among others, organized commemorative events over the Easter week. Republican groups also reiterated their commitment to strive for Irish unity.
The Easter Rising, or the Easter Rebellion, was an armed insurrection led by Irish independence fighters against the British colonialists in Ireland during Easter week (April 24-29) of 1916. On April 24, hundreds of republican militants, under the leadership of Patrick Pearse, James Connolly, and others, occupied major government offices in Dublin, and proclaimed the Irish Republic. The colonial forces of Britain deployed thousands of soldiers and brutally quelled the rebellion in a week of heavy fighting in Dublin. According to reports, around 485 people were killed in the clashes and over 2,000 were injured. In the following days, over 3,000 people were arrested by the British authorities and a series of trials in military court began in May.
Death sentences were given to major leaders of the uprising and the signatories of the Proclamation of the Republic. In May 1916, major Irish Republican leaders were executed including Patrick Pearse, James Connolly, Thomas MacDonagh, Thomas Clarke, Joseph Plunkett, William Pearse, Edward Daly, Michael O’Hanrahan, John MacBride, Éamonn Ceannt, Michael Mallin, Seán Heuston, Con Colbert, and Seán Mac Diarmada. The executions as well as other atrocities committed by the British forces invoked widespread protests across Ireland and resulted in the rise of radical republicanism in Ireland.
After a long militant and parliamentary struggle by Irish republican forces against the British colonialists, Ireland achieved independence in 1921 and the Republic of Ireland was officially established in 1949. However, six counties in the North remained under British control as directed by the Government of Ireland Act 1920 and the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921. This partitioned Ireland into two—the Catholic majority counties in the South (present day Irish Republic) and six counties in the North, with a large population of Protestant settlers who wanted to maintain ties and union with Britain.
At the commemoration of Easter Rising on Sunday, Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said, “this is the rising of a new generation. A rising fueled by the enduring values of the Irish people: community, compassion, togetherness, and kindness. We seek to build the Irish nation anew. To end partition in our time. To unite our people and our country.”
“The gravesites of our patriots are not monuments at which to stand and lament. Rather they are signposts to the future that we will achieve together. A nation is a living, breathing thing. It pulses through the hopes of its people to endure, to continue, to reach its destiny, and we will not write the epitaphs of those who lie here until Ireland—united and free—takes its rightful place amongst the nations of the world. That was the goal of Easter 1916. It is the goal now, it will remain the goal until the day it is achieved,” she added.
Graham Harrington from the Communist Party of Ireland (CPI) told Peoples Dispatch on April 11 that “the 1916 Rising was not just a seminal event in Irish history, but also in world history, since it was a blow against British imperialism from within…Vladimir Lenin criticized those socialists who did not support the Rising, saying that those who expect a pure social revolution will never live to see it.”
Harrington added, “107 years on from the Rising, the need to break the link with imperialism is still there, the struggle for Irish sovereignty and independence, based on the vision of James Connolly, continues.”