In 1916, with the hated English overlords distracted by the First World War, a group of Irish revolutionaries decided that the time was ripe to rise up, overthrow the Sassenach and declare an independent republic of Ireland. However, the Irish forces were massively outnumbered by their colonial rulers, and to add insult to injury, the English also had a massive technological superiority.
The uprising began on Monday, March 24 of 1916 in Dublin – the day after Easter. It would last for a grand total of six days before it was put down. Most of its leaders were captured, and thence imprisoned or executed for their parts in the revolt. However, as the first major uprising since 1798, it reinvigorated the Irish independence movement, and the next – and ultimately successful – Irish rebellion began only three years later.
The Royal Irish Constabulary Reserve Force – to give them their official name – were a force of Temporary Constables recruited to assist the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) during the Irish War of Independence. They were the idea of Winston Churchill, Secretary of War for the United Kingdom in 1919. In 1920, the government advertised for men willing to “face a rough and dangerous task”. It would turn out that their roughness would only make things more dangerous for everyone.
The Black and Tans got their nickname from the colours of the uniforms that they wore: khaki army uniforms (usually only trousers) and dark green RIC or blue British police surplus tunics, caps and belts. Christopher O’Sullivan wrote in the Limerick Echo on 25 March 1920 that, meeting a group of recruits on a train at Limerick Junction, the attire of one reminded him of the Scarteen Hunt, whose “Black and Tans” nickname derived from the colouration of its Kerry Beagles. Ennis comedian Mike Nono elaborated the joke in Limerick’s Theatre Royal, and the nickname soon took hold, persisting even after the men received full RIC uniforms.
Michael Davitt was 60 years old when he died in Elphis Hospital, Dublin. In his six decades of life, he’d been a Fenian revolutionary, served seven years of a fifteen year sentence for treason, was pardoned, and imprisoned again on new charges relating to his activities with various groups agitating for Irish freedom. He was elected as a Member of Parliament, but disqualified due to his confinement. He toured the world, giving speeches to raise awareness of the issues facing Ireland.
Although he did not live to see the struggle for Irish self-determination completed – indeed, some would say that it still has not – he was instrumental in many of the developments that led towards it, notably the Land Act of 1881 and the Ashbourn Act of 1885. After his death, he became an inspiration to others whose struggles resembled his – notably, Mahatma Gandhi attributed the origins of and inspiration for his own peaceful resistance to Davitt’s life and work.
Sir Roger Casement was still a young man when he toured colonial Africa and South America in the early years of the 20th century. His first hand experience of the evils of imperialism and racism radicalized him, and upon his return to his native Ireland, he broke his ties with the British establishment, becoming a founder of the Irish Volunteers, a revolutionary group dedicated to Irish independence.
Upon the outbreak of World War One, Casement attempted to bring his forces in on the German side (with the understanding that Ireland would be granted independence after the British were defeated) but negotiations foundered, although the Germans did agree to supply the Irish rebels with 20,000 rifles. However, the attempt to deliver them was intercepted by the British, and Casement was arrested three days before the Easter Rebellion of 1916, convicted of treason and stripped of his title. He was executed later that year, and his body was not returned to Ireland until 1966, where he was buried in a state funeral with full honours in the Republican section of Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.
One of the more infamous incidents in the long Irish struggle for independence, the day that would become known as Bloody Sunday. There were actually three separate incidents over the course of the day.
The first was an operation by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) led by Michael Collins, that killed twelve British agents/informers and two Auxiliaries. In response, that afternoon, British military forces opened fire on the crowd at a football match in Croke Park, killing fourteen civilians (all Irish, of course). Finally, that evening, three IRA prisoners in Dublin Castle were beaten and killed by their British captors – allegedly while trying to escape.
The day became something of a rallying cry for both sides – both of whom would go on to further atrocities in the course of their long struggle with each other, a struggle that still goes on.
The initial stages of Cromwell’s invasion of Ireland started well for him. His forces triumphed over the Royalist and Irish forces at the battle of Rathmines on August 2, 1649, and Cromwell himself landed in Dublin on August 15, with a fleet of 35 ships. 77 more ships, also loaded with troops and materiel, landed two days later, reinforcing the already substantial forces of Cromwell.
His conquest of Ireland was bloody and brutal. Cromwell’s religious tolerance did not extend to Catholics, whose numbers included the over-whelming majority of the Irish. Cromwell’s invasion marked the beginning of more than three and half centuries of oppression of the Irish Catholic majority by their Protestant British conquerors, ending only in 1922 when the independent Repblic of Eire was formed – and arguably not even then, considering the endless fighting between Protestant and Catholic in Northern Ireland even today.
Another thing that continues to the current day is the upopularity of Oliver Cromwell in Ireland, for understandable reasons.