Ireland 1916 - Ireland is part of the British Empire and the Union Jack flag flies from public buildings. Post boxes are painted red and many Irishmen join the British army to serve in far flung places such as India. In Europe, World War I rages and thousands of Irish soldiers are fighting in the trenches against the German Kaiser William. In Ireland, there is renewed interest in Irish culture and literature. A growing number of people believe that Ireland is a distinctive country and not just a region of the United Kingdom.
Most Irish people believe that while remaining within the British Empire, Ireland should be allowed to make many its own laws. This is called Home Rule. In the North East of Ireland, Unionists are opposed to this and want to remain completely within the United Kingdom with its parliament in Westminster. However, the support of Irish M.P.s for the British government in parliament means that there is a promise of Home Rule - after the end of the war.
Unionists do not like this and organise the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) to oppose the introduction of Home Rule. Guns are imported and the UVF practise drilling and training. In response to this, the Irish Volunteers are founded with the aim of ensuring that Home Rule is introduced at the end of the war. They practise drilling and training. However, they have limited supplies of weapons.
The Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), a more militant group, has infiltrated the Irish Volunteers and other organisations associated with the Gaelic revival. With its connections to the Fenians, the IRB is not satisfied with Home Rule and instead wants a completely independent Ireland. With Britain at war in Europe, the IRB is convinced that now is the time to stage an armed uprising. Planning for a rising begins and there are hopes of getting guns from Germany. A nationwide rising involving thousands of Irish Volunteers is planned for Easter Sunday. The IRB keeps its plans secret from the leadership of the Irish Volunteers.
Patrick Pearse - Father born in England. Came to Ireland and worked as a sculptor. His son Patrick had a keen interest in Irish culture. Involved with many cultural organisations. Joined the Irish Volunteers and also became a member of the IRB. Qualified as a barrister. Also a poet and writer.
Thomas Clarke - Born on the Isle of Wight to Irish parents. At 57, the oldest of the leaders. Long time member of the IRB. Spent 15 years in prison in England. Travelled to America. Returned to Ireland in 1907 and opened a small shop in Parnell Street. Frequent meeting place for those planning the rising.
James Connolly - Born in Scotland to Irish parents. After some time in the British Army became a trade unionist. Involved with the 1913 Lockout when workers were locked out by employers after demanding higher wages. Leader of Irish Citizen Army set up to defend workers against attacks.
Thomas McDonagh - Born in County Tipperary. Joined the Gaelic League. Met Pearse while on a visit to Aran Islands. Taught at St. Enda's, Pearse's school. Interested in theatre and writing.
Sean Mac Diarmada - Born in County Leitrim. Worked in Glasgow as a gardener and then as a tram conductor. Moved to Dublin and became friendly with Thomas Clarke. Travelled throughout Ireland as an organiser for the IRB.
Eamonn Ceannt - Born in County Galway. A teacher in the Gaelic League. Keen interest in Irish music and played the uilleann pipes. A member of the IRB, he also helped to set up the Irish Volunteers.
Joseph Plunkett - A poet. Interested in theatre. Suffered from poor health. Regarded as one of the main military planners of the rising.
The leadership of the IRB have planned a rising for Easter Sunday. The aim is to have a ship from Germany called the Aud land 20,000 rifles in Kerry sometime before Sunday. These weapons will then be distributed to the Irish Volunteers around the country who are scheduled to meet on Sunday under the pretext of holding a training session. The intention is that a nationwide uprising will then take place with the hope, perhaps, of further military assistance from Germany. All of these plans are being kept secret from Eoin MacNeill, leader of the Irish Volunteers.
Problems emerge when the Aud fails to make contact with the IRB in Kerry. The ship is eventually challenged by the British Navy and the captain has no choice but to sink the Aud and her cargo of weapons on Easter Saturday. Roger Casement, one of those responsible for importing the arms, is also captured by the police. In a further blow, Eoin MacNeill becomes aware of plans for the rising. He is angry that the Irish Volunteers are being used in this way and places a newspaper advertisement cancelling Sunday's 'parades'.
There is widespread confusion amongst the volunteers with most now believing that Sunday's meeting has been cancelled. Without the turn out of the Irish Volunteers and the weapons on board the scuttled Aud, the prospects for Sunday's planned rising do not look very good. The leaders meet, unsure as to whether to postpone the rising to another time. However, despite the setbacks they decide to press ahead and reschedule the rising for Easter Monday.
Final preparations now begin. A proclamation is drafted and plans are made to have it printed. This will be similar to a poster and when the rising begins, it is intended to tell the general public why the rising is taking place. It is decided to print the proclamation in Liberty Hall, the headquarters of James Connolly's trade union. There have been numerous raids on Liberty Hall and some of the printing equipment has been confiscated by the police.The printers work throughout the night hoping they will not be discovered. They eventually print 2,500 copies of the proclamation.The Easter Proclamation is a radical document. As well as declaring the right of the Irish people to an independent Ireland, it also asserts the equality of men and women. The Easter Proclamation also bears the names of those who planned the Uprising.