A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: A botched coup, sanctified by martyrdom

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A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: A botched coup, sanctified by martyrdom

Post by Guest on Sun May 18, 2014 6:29 am

Padraig Pearse was much condemned for the "blood sacrifice" he demanded of Irish republicans in 1916. He spoke of the "red wine of the battlefields" and was sneered at by pragmatic, unromantic Brits. Yet only a year earlier, our beloved Rupert Brooke was talking of the Great War warriors who "poured out the red sweet wine of youth". Blood sacrifice was a crazed European ideal at the time. And blood there was enough in Dublin at Easter 1916.

The legend: a group of 400 courageous Irish patriots took over much of the centre of Dublin and held out against overwhelming odds for six days before surrendering, their ringleaders – including Pearse – executed in short order by a British Army which thought nothing of shooting its own soldiers at the stake in France.
The truth: it includes much of the legend. The Irish rebels were courageous. The British used heavy artillery and a gunboat on the Liffey with First World War promiscuity. But the insurgents' planning was abysmal, their rising cancelled elsewhere in the country. By the time they surrendered amid the ruins of Sackville Street, armies of Dublin looters had swarmed into the wreckage amid Irish cries for the insurgents' punishment. The Irish Independent successfully called for their deaths. The execution of 15 of the leaders was more important than the Rising, the British typically turning rebellion into martyrdom.

The only unmentionable: all of the 16 policemen killed by the insurgents and 22 of the 116 British Army fatalities were Irishmen. Indeed, the first engagement of the Rising was fought between Pearse's irregulars and the Royal Irish Regiment. Irishman was fighting Irishman. The dead of both sides still lie in Dublin, one cemetery containing servants of the Crown beneath Commonwealth war grave headstones, the other worthy three years ago of a bow of the head from Her Majesty.



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