The 1916 Rising

The Rising began on Easter Monday 1916, when rebels from the Irish Republican Brotherhood, The Irish Volunteers, Cumann na mBan and the Irish Citizen Army occupied strategic buildings in Dublin and engaged in skirmishes around the country. 

Thousands of British troop reinforcements were sent to the capital, and the rebel positions were pounded by field artillery and by guns from the patrol vessel Helga, reducing parts of the city centre to rubble.

During the six day rebellion some four hundred and fifty combatants and civilians lost their lives, and many more were injured.

Sixteen of the rebel leaders were executed in the days following their surrender to British forces, a response that greatly increased support for the rebellion and helped set Ireland on the path to nationhood.

Among the rebels was a schoolteacher, a suffragette, a labour activist, a playwright and poet, a lifelong revolutionary who had served fifteen years in British prisons, and the son of a papal count.

Poet, teacher and barrister Patrick Pearse was a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood's military council. He read the Proclamation of the Irish Republic from the steps of the General Post Office on Easter Monday, and ordered the surrender six days later. He was executed by firing squad on May 3rd, 1916. His brother Willie was shot the following day.
Edinburgh born James Connolly was a socialist party organiser in Scotland and the U.S., before moving to Ireland. He was joint founder of the Irish Citizen Army, and acted as Commander in Chief during the rising. He faced the firing squad tied to a chair, as his ankle had been shattered by a bullet. His wife Nora and son Roddy later served in the Dáil (Irish Parliament).
Irish Volunteer Joseph Mary Plunkett was born into a privileged background, but his health was blighted by tuberculosis. He travelled to Germany to organise a shipment of arms for the Irish Republican Brotherhood. He married Grace Gifford seven hours before his execution on May 4th, 1916
Eoin MacNeill founded the Irish Volunteers. He opposed the rising when he learned that the expected arms shipment from Germany had been intercepted. He later became minister of Education for the Irish Free State. His family was divided by the ensuing civil war, and his younger son was killed opposing the treaty that Eoin himself supported.
Eamonn Ceannt commanded over 100 men during the Rising. His batallion saw intense fighting around the South Dublin Union. Along with the other executed leaders, he faced the death penalty only due to a legal technicality that classed their activities as 'aiding the enemy', once their dealings with Germany came to light.
Seán MacDermott was an IRB member and manager of the newspaper Irish Freedom. He was a signatory to the Proclamation, but an earlier bout of polio had left him unable to take active part in the fighting. He was court martialled, and executed on May 8th. The detective who had picked him out for arrest was later assassinated by Michael Collins' death squad during the War of Independence.
Constance Markievicz, a countess by marriage, was a leading suffragette and member of the Irish Citizen Army. Her death sentence was commuted due to the reluctance of the British to execute a woman. She later became the first woman elected both to the UK parliament and to the Dáil. She fought in the Civil war in opposition to the Anglo-Irish Treaty.
Thomas Clarke was executed at the age of 58, after a lifetime of opposition to British rule in Ireland. He had spent fifteen years in British prisons for his part in a thwarted plot to blow up London Bridge. He was the first signatory of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic during the 1916 rising. His widow Kathleen was later elected to the Dáil.
Thomas MacDonagh was a poet and playwright, and a signatory to the Proclamation. His unit, stationed at Jacob's Biscuit Factory, saw little fighting. MacDonagh was nonetheless sentenced to death and executed on May 3rd, 1916. An elegy for MacDonagh was written by his friend, the poet Francis Ledwidge, who was later killed in Ypres, fighting with the British Army.
Playwright Terence MacSwiney was elected Mayor of Cork during the war of independence that followed the Easter Rising. He was imprisoned for sedition, and began a hunger strike in protest at his internment, dying after 74 days without food. His hunger strike gained international attention, and was later cited as an inspiration by figures as diverse as Mahatma Ghandi and Ho Chi Minh.