In order to understand the sectarian violence that plagued Belfast and Northern Ireland for many years, you have to start one hundred and three miles to the South in the city of Dublin. The conflict known as the troubles, involved mostly Protestant loyalists, who wanted to remain part of the United Kingdom, against mostly Catholic republicans, who wished to unite with the Republic of Ireland.
In 1916, on Easter Monday in Dublin, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, a secret organization of Irish nationalists led by Patrick Pearse, launches the Easter Rebellion, an armed uprising against British rule. Assisted by militant Irish socialists under James Connolly, Pearse and his fellow Republicans rioted and attacked British provincial government headquarters across Dublin and seized the Irish capital’s, General Post Office. Following these successes, the Irish nationalists proclaimed the independence of Ireland, which had been under the British rule for centuries, and by the next morning were in control of much of the city.
Later that day, however, British authorities launched a counteroffensive, and by April 29 the uprising had been crushed. Nevertheless, the Easter Rebellion is considered a significant marker on the road to establishing an independent Irish republic. Following the uprising, Pearse and 14 other nationalist leaders were executed for their participation and held up as martyrs by many in Ireland.
While walking on O’Connell Street in the Irish Capital of Dublin, one summer evening, I asked a local resident for directions to a ATM. He gave me directions which to my surprise was on the same block. While waiting on a cab, strangely he approached me and started to tell me about the Easter Rising and explained that evidence of the uprising was still on this street. He explained that the bullet holes on the angles on the O’Connell Monument were from the 1916 uprising. He informed us of the bullet holes in the are still in the side of the building of the General Post Office and told us the story of the Irish Mythological Hero of Cu Chulainn. It was amazing, I was getting a short Irish history lesson from an Irishman on the street who was very proud of his heritage and the hard-fought independence from the British. We walked over to the O’Connell monument to see what he was talking about. There were two teenagers sitting on the monument. They preceded to show us where the bullet holes were and explained to us about the uprising.
We walked over to the General Post Office building where it was the headquarters of the men and women who took part in the Easter Rising. Sure enough, there were bullet holes in the side of the building. It is hard to believe such a lively street filled with shops and restaurants was a war zone a little over hundred years ago with evidence still around.
The Irish Nationalist chose the General Post Office (GPO), the communications heart of the country and the centre of Dublin city, as the building on which to hoist the flag of an Irish republic. For nearly a week, the rebels held the GPO. Fighting here and in other parts of the city was intense with civilians bearing the greatest hardship. With the building on fire and crumbling, they tried to break through the surrounding army cordon but failed. Patrick Pearse, realizing the futility of further fighting, took the decision to surrender.
If you take the time to walk around Dublin you will see evidence of the hardship and sacrifice the Irish have endured achieving their independence. The Easter Rising was notable for its sniper duels. It was a way of picking off combatants who strayed into sight, although sometimes targets were picked indiscriminately. For the rebels, it was essential to their survival that enemy snipers and machine gun nests were disrupted and forced to move position.
The picture below was taken from inside of the Dublinia Museum that highlighted the Viking and Midevive history of Dublin. In 1916, Dublinia (then the Synod Hall) was one of the outposts used in the Rising. Three armed rebels from the socialist Irish Citizens Army (ICA) were stationed here. Their task was to delay expected British troops heading to Dublin Castle where they had planned a take-over.
The Anglo-Irish treaty was signed in 1921 ending hostilities between the IRA and the British. The Treaty gave the 26 southern counties of Ireland now the Irish Free State a considerable degree of independence, however, Northern Ireland would remain part of the United Kingdom. Some were not happy with the arrangement. A civil war broke out between pro-treaty forces and anti-Treatyites, or republicans. T The war ended in 1924, but tensions would still carry on over the years. As you look toward the North, it is apparent even today there is still desire for a united Ireland.