Liberation of Ireland

The 1916 Easter Rising - The Liberation - The Irish Revolution (1919-22) - The Irish Free State (1922-37) - Éire (1937-49) - The Republic of Ireland - Economic Gains - Political Developments - Shifts in Power - The Great Famine (external link) - Irish National Anthem - Irish Declaration of Independence - Irish National Anthem - Presidents & Taoiseachs

The 1916 Easter Rising

The Easter Rebellion, was an armed uprising of Irish nationalists against the rule of Great Britain in Ireland. The uprising occurred on Easter Monday, April 24, 1916, and centred mainly in Dublin. The chief objectives were the attainment of political freedom and the establishment of an Irish republic. Centuries of discontent, marked by numerous rebellions, preceded the uprising. The new crisis began to develop in September 1914, following the outbreak of World War I, when the British government suspended the recently enacted Home Rule Bill, which guaranteed a measure of political autonomy to Ireland. Suspension of the bill stimulated the growth of the Citizen Army, an illegal force of Dublin citizens organised by the labour leader Jim Larkin (died 1948) and the socialist James Connolly (1870-1916); of the Irish Volunteers, a national defence body; and of the extremist Sinn Féin. The uprising was planned by leaders of these organisations, among whom were the British consular agent Sir Roger David Casement, the educator Padhraic Pearse (1879-1916), and the poet Thomas MacDonagh (1878-1916).

Hostilities began about noon on April 24, when about 2000 men led by Pearse seized control of the Dublin post office and other strategic points within the city. Shortly after these initial successes, the leaders of the rebellion proclaimed the Independence of Ireland and announced the establishment of a provisional government of the Irish Republic. Additional positions were occupied by the rebels during the night, and by the morning of April 25 they controlled a considerable part of Dublin. The counteroffensive by British forces began on Tuesday with the arrival of reinforcements. Martial law was proclaimed throughout Ireland. Bitter street fighting developed in Dublin, during which the strengthened British forces steadily dislodged the Irish from their positions. By the morning of April 29, the post office building, site of the rebel headquarters, was under violent attack. Recognising the futility of further resistance, Pearse surrendered unconditionally in the afternoon of April 29.

The British immediately brought the leaders of the uprising to trial before a field court-martial. Fifteen of the group, including Pearse, Connolly, and MacDonagh, were sentenced to death and executed by firing squad. Four others, including the American-born Eamon de Valera, received death sentences that were later commuted to life imprisonment, although de Valera and some others were granted amnesty the next year. Casement was convicted of treason and hanged. Many others prominently connected with the rebellion were sentenced to long prison terms. The uprising was the first of a series of events that culminated in the establishment of the Irish Free State (predecessor of the Republic of Ireland) in 1921. Casualties were about 440 British troops and an estimated 75 Irish (below are their names). Property damage included the destruction of about 200 buildings in Dublin.

Picture of the seven men who signed the declaration
The seven signatories of the Irish Proclamation (from the left):

Padraig Pearse, James Connolly, Thomas Clarke, Thomas MacDonagh, Sean MacDermott, Joseph Plunkett & Eamonn Ceannt
All of the above men were executed by the British
Government for their efforts in trying to secure a free Ireland!

The names of those who died or were executed (* means executed)
Padraig Pearse * Thomas MacDonagh * Thomas Clarke * Joseph Plunkett *
Edward Daly * Michael O’Hanrahan * William Pearse * Sean McBride *
Con Colbert * Eamonn Ceannt * Michael Mallin * Sean Hueston *
James Connolly * Sean McDermott * John Adams Thomas Allen
William Burke Andrew Byrne James Byrne Louis Byrne
Charles Carrigan Philip Clarke Sean Connolly James Corcoran
Edward Costello John Costello Henry Coyle John Crenigan
John Cromien Charles Darcy Brendan Donelan Patrick Doyle
John Dwan Edward Ennis Patrick Farrell James Fox
George Geoghegan John Healy Sean Howard Sean Hurley
John Keely Con Keating Gerald Keogh Francis Macken
Peader Macken Michael Malone Peter Manning James McCormack
William McDowell Charles Monaghan Michael Mulvihill Richard Murphy
Daniel Murray Richard O’Carroll Patrick O’Connor Patrick O’Flanagan
John O’Grady The O’Rahilly John O’Reilly Thomas O’Reilly
John Owens James Quinn Thomas Rafferty George Reynolds
Fredrick Ryan Domhnall Sheehan Patrick Shortis John Traynor
Edward Walsh Philip Walshe Thomas Weafer Patrick Whelan
Peter Wilson Richard Kent Roger Casement * (1) Thomas Kent * (2)
Thomas Ashe (3)      


(1) Roger Casement was executed in Pentonville prison London.
(2) Thomas Kent was executed in Cork jail.
(3) Thomas Ashe died on a hunger-strike in 1917.

O'Connell Street after the 1916 rising

Click the image for a larger picture

A poem:

Awaiting freedom from my mother’s womb
At Resurrection time, some glint of rebel steel
Pierced deep my soul, so deep
That fifty years have not erased the thrill
The names of Pearse and Plunkett,
Clarke, MacDonagh, Connolly
Ceannt and Sean Mac Diarmada arouse,
Of freedom born in blood.

Wresting freedom from a tyrant’s hand
Had often been essayed on Ireland’s soil.
Essayed at cost, at bitter cost
By men of eager hearts and giant mind, yet still
Each century brought fourthThe poets, princes of pen,
To thrill with their philosophy
A nation’s captive hearts.
No lust of blood inflamed the freedom verse
To turn the ploughshare to the sword;
They unlocked hearts, e'en timid hearts
To dreams undreamt of within captive breasts,
And set vast floods of liberty afloat
Upon a sea too long content
With anchored hopes,
And flotsam fears.

Who can recall an Emmet or a Tone,
A Mitchel or a Davitt or Devoy,
Without a glorious surging of the blood
And anticipation of emancipation
From the long-remembered wrongs
Upon a nation's rights?
Just tribute must be paid by
Freedmen to felon's heirs.

Half a century ago our resurrection came
Heralded by another name, the name of Pearse,
An Apollo with a quiver of words,
Music-tipped arrows to reach the very souls
Of those who longed and longed for freedom's balm;
Gentle leader of a quiet few
Who braved a tyrant's might
To make a bondman free.

Let me praise him who close by Rossa’s grave
Praised the virtue of a valiant man
From a heart and tongue pregnant then
With death-decision made for
Freedom's urgent birth;
A man whose spiritual eye could see the joy
Of a ladybird upon a stalk,
Or a rabbit in a field at play.

There were no deaths in Dublin on that
Easter day some fifty years ago-
Such music makers cannot die
As many mercenary soldiers do
With battles lost or won.
They have but set the music to a song
That ever holds us bound,
Yet leaves us ever free.

Like Pearse or Plunkett,
MacDonagh and Mac Diarmada
Ceantt and Clarke,
And Connolly


The Liberation

Irish liberation (for 26 out of 32 counties) from British rule was achieved as the result of a struggle extending over several centuries and marked by numerous rebellions. Following the Easter Rebellion, an uprising of Irish nationalists on Easter Monday, April 24, 1916, Sinn Féin became the most influential political party in Ireland. This party, founded in 1905 by Arthur Griffith, a Dublin journalist, campaigned in the parliamentary election of 1918 on a program that called for the severance of all ties with Great Britain, an end to the separatist movement in northern Ireland, and the establishment of an Irish republic. Candidates of Sinn Féin won 73 of the 106 seats allotted to Ireland in the British Parliament.

The Irish Revolution (1919-22)

In January 1919 the Sinn Féin members of Parliament assembled in Dublin as the Dáil Éireann, or national assembly. Proclaiming the independence of Ireland, the Dáil forthwith formed a government, with Eamon De Valera as president. There followed guerrilla attacks by Irish insurgents, later called the Irish Republican Army (IRA), on British forces, particularly the Royal Irish Constabulary, called the Black and Tans; and the British instituted vigorous reprisals. In the course of the war, the British Parliament enacted, in December 1920, a Home Rule Bill, providing separate parliaments for six counties of Ulster Province and for the remainder of Ireland. By the terms of the bill, Great Britain retained effective control of Irish affairs. The people of Northern Ireland, as the six counties in Ulster Province were known, ratified the legislation in May 1921 and elected a parliament. Although the rest of Ireland also elected a parliament in May, the Sinn Feiners, constituting an overwhelming majority outside of Ulster, refused to recognise the other provisions of the Home Rule Bill. The warfare against the British continued until July 10, 1921, when a truce was arranged. Subsequent negotiations led to the signing, in December 1921, of a peace treaty by representatives of the second Dáil Éireann and the British government. By the terms of the treaty, all of Ireland except the six counties constituting Northern Ireland was to receive dominion status identical with that of Canada. After considerable debate, in which the opposition, led by De Valera, objected strenuously to a provision that virtually guaranteed a separate government in Northern Ireland and to an article that required members of the Dáil to swear allegiance to the British sovereign, the Dáil ratified the treaty on January 15, 1922, by a vote of 64 to 57. Ratification brought into being the Irish Free State, with Arthur Griffith as president and Michael Collins, who was another prominent member of Sinn Féin, as chairman of the provisional government.

The Irish Free State (1922-37)

Under the leadership of De Valera, the dissident Sinn Féin group, termed the Republicans and later known as Fianna Fáil, called for a resumption of the struggle against Great Britain and instituted a campaign, including insurrectionary acts, against the provisional government. With the question of the treaty the chief issue, an election for a provisional Dáil was held in June 1922. Candidates supporting the treaty won a majority of the seats. The Republicans, refusing to recognise the authority of the new Dáil, proclaimed a rival government and intensified their attacks on the Irish Free State. In the course of the ensuing struggle, hundreds were killed on both sides, and many prominent Republican leaders were executed. while, the Dáil, headed now by William Thomas Cosgrave, drafted a constitution providing for a bicameral legislature (Dáil and Saenad, or senate), which was adopted on October 11, 1922. Following approval by the British Parliament, it became operative on December 6. The official government of the Irish Free State was instituted at once, with Cosgrave assuming office as president of the executive council. In April 1923 the Republicans declared a truce in hostilities in order to participate in the forthcoming national elections, and public order was gradually restored. Neither the Sinn Féin party nor the Republican party secured a majority in the elections held late in August 1923. The Republicans boycotted the Dáil, however, and Cosgrave, supported by a coalition of parties, retained power. The boundary between the Free State and Northern Ireland was established in December 1925. During the next few years, agreement was reached with the British government on various mutual problems, and the national economy was substantially strengthened by a series of measures, including the initiation of a hydroelectric project on the Shannon River.

Although the Republicans gradually increased their representation in the Dáil during this period, they continued their boycott until August 1927. They then assumed their 57 seats in the newly elected Dáil. Partly as a result of the failure of the government to cope with domestic difficulties brought on by the world economic crisis of the early 1930s, Cosgrave's party lost several seats to the Republicans in the elections of February 1932. De Valera thereupon became head of the government. Legislation that he sponsored in the following April included provisions for the abrogation of the oath of allegiance to the British crown. This bill, which also would have virtually ended the political ties between Great Britain and the Free State, received the approval of the Dáil, but was rejected, in effect, by the Saenad. In his next move against the British, De Valera withheld payment of certain land purchase annuities that the British claimed were legally due them. The withholding of the payment of annuities led to a protracted tariff war between the two countries, with serious damage to the economy of the Free State. In another significant move, De Valera secured repeal of a law restricting the activities of the IRA. The electorate registered approval of his program in elections held in January 1933, in which a majority of Republicans were returned to the Dáil.

With this mandate from the people, De Valera systematically developed his program for the gradual elimination of British influence in Irish affairs, obtaining abrogation of the oath of allegiance, restrictions on the role of the governor-general who represented the British crown, and other measures. Simultaneously, the government initiated measures designed to give the country a self-sufficient economy. Steps taken included high income taxes on the rich, high protective tariffs, and control of foreign capital invested in Irish industry. In June 1935, De Valera severed his political ties with the IRA, which had been extremely critical of many of his policies, and imprisoned a number of its leaders. It became general knowledge, meanwhile, that the draft of a new constitution was in progress. In 1936 the Republicans, in coalition with other groups in the Dáil, finally secured passage of legislation abolishing the Saenad, long inimical to De Valera's policies. The Dáil functioned as a unicameral legislature for the remainder of its term. In connection with the events surrounding the abdication of Edward VIII, king of Great Britain, the Dáil enacted in 1936 a bill that deleted all references to the king from the constitution of the Free State and abolished the office of governor-general. Parallel legislation, which was known as the External Relations Act of 1936, restricted the association of the Free State with the British Commonwealth of Nations to joint action on certain questions involving external policy, specifically the approval of the trade treaties of the Free State and the appointment of its foreign envoys in the name of the British crown.

Éire (1937-49)

The 5-year term of office of the Dáil expired in June 1937. In the subsequent election the Republican party won a plurality of the seats in the Dáil. The new constitution, which abolished the Irish Free State and established Éire as a 'Sovereign independent democratic state,' was approved by the voters in a plebiscite conducted simultaneously with the election. This document provided for a new senate of 60 members. Although the constitution specifically applied to all Ireland, it provided that the laws of Éire should be executed, pending unification with Northern Ireland, only within the territory of the republic. The constitution contained no references to the British sovereign or to the Commonwealth of Nations. A subsequent statement by De Valera indicated, however, that Éire's relations with Great Britain would be governed by the External Relations Act of 1936. In 1938 the Irish writer and patriot Douglas Hyde became the first president of Éire, and De Valera became prime minister.

Through a treaty adopted in April 1938, the tariff war between Éire and Great Britain was concluded. The latter agreed to withdraw its forces from naval bases in Éire, and Éire agreed to a settlement of the annuities owed to Great Britain. The slight improvement in relations between the two nations was marred by a violent terrorist campaign in Great Britain conducted by the IRA.

Éire maintained neutrality in World War II, although many thousands of Irish citizens joined the Allied forces or worked in British war industry. In the immediate post-war era, the economic dislocations in Great Britain and Europe subjected the economy of Éire to severe strains, resulting in a period of rapid inflation and, indirectly, in the defeat of Fianna Fáil in the elections of February 1948. De Valera was defeated in the Dáil for the prime ministry by John Aloysius Costello, candidate of a six-party coalition opposed to Fianna Fáil. Costello, a former attorney general, called for lower prices and taxes, the expansion of industrial production, and closer commercial relations with Great Britain.

Republic of Ireland

On Easter Monday, April 18, 1949, by the terms of the Republic of Ireland Bill approved by the Dáil in November 1948, Éire became the Republic of Ireland, formally free of allegiance to the British crown and the Commonwealth of Nations. In the following month, the British Parliament approved a bill continuing the status of Northern Ireland as a part of Great Britain and extending to citizens of the republic resident in Britain the same rights as British citizens. Similar legal provision was made by the Éire government in respect of British citizens resident in Éire. The republic became a member of the United Nations on December 14, 1955, when the General Assembly approved the admission of 4 communist and 12 non-communist nations.

Economic Gains

Although inflation and an unfavourable balance of trade remained difficult problems, Ireland made significant strides toward economic stability through the 1950s and '60s. In 1964 the government completed a five-year plan of economic development, which exceeded its goals. A feature of the program was the offer of tax incentives to foreign investors.

Partly as a result of such programs, the rate of economic growth increased from about 1 percent per year in the 1950s to more than 4.5 percent in the late 1960s. It was officially reported in 1964 that more than 200 factories had begun production since 1955, most of them with foreign participation. A second plan began that year with a goal by 1970 of a net increase of 50 percent in the gross national product over the 1960 level. The improving economic circumstances were regarded as the main cause of a decline in emigration, ending a population decline that had continued unabated for more than a century.

Political Developments

With economic stability came a new measure of political stability and a decline in traditional anti-British feeling. As early as 1957 Prime Minister Costello, who regarded the terrorist activities of the IRA as damaging to relations with Great Britain and tending to prolong the partition of Ireland, had called for forceful action against the organisation. Costello was defeated for reelection, but early in 1958 his successor, De Valera, publicly agreed that unity could not be achieved by force. In June 1959, De Valera, at the age of 77, was elected president, and Seán Francis Lemass (1899-1971), deputy prime minister, became prime minister. Opposition to IRA activity, plus a decline in the active membership, led to the announcement in February 1962 that the group had abandoned violence. Nevertheless, Ireland continued to suffer occasional acts of terrorism. In 1966 Prime Minister Lemass resigned. The Fianna Fáil won the ensuing elections, and John Mary Lynch became prime minister. To reduce unemployment and increase exports, he tried to build up industry in order.

An increase of violence between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland was followed by IRA terrorist activity in the Irish Republic. In 1971 the Dáil banned the purchase or holding of arms for use outside Ireland. In 1972 the government required the surrender of all firearms.

Also in early 1972 Ireland signed a treaty joining the European Community, effective January 1, 1973, a move favored by 83 percent of the voters; and, by referendum, ended the special constitutional status of the Roman Catholic church.

Shifts in Power

Hoping to strengthen his party, Lynch called elections in February 1973. A coalition of the Fine Gael and Labour parties gained a slim majority, however, and Fine Gael leader Liam Cosgrave became prime minister. Fianna Fáil returned to power in a government headed by Lynch in 1977, in 1979 Lynch was replaced by Charles Haughey (1925- ).

In the late 1970s and early '80s the Irish government faced increased domestic terrorism by extremist Irish nationalists. Ireland also had a high rate of inflation and suffered some economic dislocation from membership in the European Community. Amid rising unemployment, elections were held in 1981, and the coalition government was led briefly by Garret FitzGerald (1926- ), head of Fine Gael. Inconclusive elections in February 1982 returned Haughey to power, but another election, in late 1982, brought FitzGerald back. In 1985 FitzGerald signed a pact with Great Britain giving the Irish Republic a consultative role in governing Northern Ireland. The collapse of the FitzGerald government in January 1987 led to new elections one month later. Haughey won a single-vote majority in the Dáil Éireann and became prime minister once again. FitzGerald subsequently resigned as Fine Gael leader. After inconclusive elections in June 1989, Haughey formed a new coalition government. In November 1990, Mary Robinson (1944- ), a feminist lawyer who ran with Labour and Workers' party backing, became the first woman ever to win election as president of Ireland. Haughey resigned as prime minister and leader of Fianna Fáil in early 1992, amid allegations of scandal; his former finance minister, Albert Reynolds (1932- ), was chosen to replace him. In June, Irish voters ratified a treaty strengthening political and monetary integration within the European Community.

See also Politics.

The Irish National Anthem

To download a zip file of The Irish National Anthem, click ( 311Kb [8bit mono WAV file].


DOUGLAS HYDE              1938-1945 (+1949)
SEAN THOMAS O'KELLY       1945-1959 (+1966)  Fianna Fáil
EAMON DE VALERA           1959-1973 (+1975)  Fianna Fáil
ERSKINE HAMILTON CHILDERS 1973-1974 (+)      Fianna Fáil
CEARBHALL O'DALAIGH       1974-1976 (+1978)  Fianna Fáil
PATRICK J. HILLERY        1976-1990          Fianna Fáil
MARY ROBINSON             1990-1997          Labour
MARY MCALEESE             1997-              Fianna Fáil

Taoiseachs (Prime Ministers)

EAMON DE VALERA    1932-1948 (+1975)  Fianna Fáil
JOHN A. COSTELLO   1948-1951 (+1976)  Fine Gael
EAMON DE VALERA    1951-1954 (+1975)  Fianna Fáil
JOHN A. COSTELLO   1954-1957 (+1976)  Fine Gael
EAMON DE VALERA    1957-1959 (+1975)  Fianna Fáil
SEAN F. LEMASS     1959-1966 (+1971)  Fianna Fáil
JACK M. LYNCH      1966-1973          FIanna Fáil
LIAM GOSGRAVE      1973-1977          Fine Gael
JACK M. LYNCH      1977-1979          Fianna Fáil
CHARLES HAUGHEY    1979-1981          Fianna Fáil
GARRET FITZGERALD  1981-1982          Fine Gael
CHARLES HAUGHEY    1982               Fianna Fáil
GARRET FITZGERALD  1982-1987          Fine Gael
CHARLES HAUGHEY    1987-1992          Fianna Fáil
ALBERT REYNOLDS    1992-1994          Fianna Fáil
JOHN BRUTON        1994-1997          Fine Gael
BERTIE AHERN       1997-              Fianna Fáil