The Centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising

The Dublin Battle Breaking in the doors of a house so as to be able to cut off rebels in the Greshan Hotel. no date given 1916

The Dublin Battle
Breaking in the doors of a house so as to be able to cut off rebels in the Greshan Hotel.
no date given

As with most major political issues or historical events, plans to commemorate Easter 2016 have produced splits in how Ireland remembers and interprets the revolt. Sinn Féin has decided to organize its own series of events independent of the government’s official program. The party is behind a major exhibition about the Easter Rising in a former cinema north of O’Connell Street. Dissident republicans, meanwhile, have coalesced under the proliferating 1916 Societies, which observers of republicanism believe is a nascent political movement for all those opposed to peace and power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

A former Provisional IRA prisoner and head of its Derry Brigade during the Troubles, Danny McBrearty, a member of the Derry 1916 Society, said the societies have created a new all-Ireland network of republicans, who regard the Good Friday agreement as a sellout.

“The 1916 Societies is an Irish separatist organization that emerged in 2009. Since then it has spread quietly but rapidly, establishing a presence throughout Ireland,” he said. “In East Tyrone it is supported by the vast majority of the families of the IRA ‘roll of honor’. Elsewhere, as local Societies multiply, they are becoming the ‘go-to’ organization for families of fallen IRA volunteers seeking to commemorate their loved ones.”

Ireland did not achieve its independence in 1916. The executions of the rebel leaders, the imposition of conscription and British military actions – including the deployment of the semi-irregular Black and Tans – pushed the majority of the population in the 26 counties of what is now the Irish Republic into the arms of the IRA and Sinn Féin. Yet, when the war of independence ended, Ireland was partitioned, the province of Northern Ireland established and an even more bloody civil war was fought between the majority of those, who backed that Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 and the diehards who opposed it.

The commemorations will take place on Easter Sunday only a few weeks after the general election. If the pollsters are correct, Enda Kenny, the current Taoiseach, will take the salute, as thousands of troops file past the GPO. Kenny is the leader of Fine Gael, the party directly descended from Michael Collins and his faction of the IRA, which accepted the 1921 treaty and which, ironically, for decades since, has been accused by generations of republicans of betraying the legacy of 1916.