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Chapters

The 1916 Easter Rising

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of years. O'Rahilly showed no sign of surprise. he appeared not to have believed the report in the first place. He did not pretend to be happy with any part of what was going on around him. the insurgent forces were pitifully small, inadequately armed, and, as it was now obvious to anyone who had been downstairs in the Post Office, dangerously undertrained. The country was not yet in sympathy with their aims and was not likely to support them. It had been a great mistake, in his opinion, to precipitate the uprisng at this moment. It was only a matter of hours before they should all be wiped out. Despite his romantic commitment to Irish independence, O'Rahilly was essentially a life-loving man who favored practical methods and found no satisfaction in courting death simply as a gesture of protest.

The head of a County Kerry clan ( hence the title ' The O'Rahilly ' which he assumed) he had embraced the Gaelic and Republican movements as a young man ( he was now forty-one ) and it was he who first conceived the idea of founding the Irish Volunteers. Because he had an independent income of £900 per year, he could afford an automobile ( which he actually owned jointly with one of his sisters) and was therefore considered wealthy by most of the other Republican leaders. He used to take trips through the countryside, tossing pennies to small children with adonitions in

Desmond_FitzGerald

Desmond Fitzgerald

the moment he didn't want even to speak to any of them. When he and Fitzgerald had worked out what seemed to him satisfactory arrangements for managing the upper floors of the building, he sent Fitzgerald downstairs to get their approval. Pearse was so receptive to O'Rahilly's arrangements that Fitzgerald could sense in him the deep guilt and embarrassment he must feel about O'Rahilly. ' Isn't O'Rahilly a marvelous man?' Pearse said. When Fitzgerald, changing the subject, asked him if there were any prospects of victory, Pearse hesitated, then spoke in general terms about the situation without making any cheerful or exaggerated predictions. Though he had accepted the necessity of living a lie by witholding from O'Rahilly and the rest of the moderates the plans for the uprising, he could not bring himself to tell an outright lie even at a time like this, when, as commander in chief, he had almost a duty to stimulate optimism. As their conversation came to a close, he said once more ' Isn't O'Rahilly a marvelous man? ' When Fitzgerald reported to Tom Clarke, he found him clearly elated at the realisation that Irishmen, however few in number, had actually risen in arms against England, that this generation was not going to pass meekly without reasserting the Irish right to self-government.

He was not, on the surface at keast, bitter or vindictive in his attitude toward the English, despite those fifteen years in British prisons, during which he maintained his sanity by copying the entire Old and New Testaments twice in shorthand. He was simply afire with zeal for Irish independence. He was bitter, however, toward his fellow Irishmen and fellow Republicans who had propagated the counterman order. And that bitterness perhaps included the O'Rahilly. Yet time and again he assured Fitzgerald that of all men he admired O'Rahilly. ' What do you think of our chances of victory?' Fitzgerald asked him. ' Imagine what a fight we could have put up ' Calrke said ' if there had been no countermand order. ' He did not say, however, that even under those circumstances they could have hoped for victory. About their outlook as it stood, he made no predictions. After reporting to Clarke, Fitzgerald located James Connolly, who quickly approved of whatever O'Rahilly thought best for the upper floors of the building. Fitzgerald and Connolly talked for only a short time, because Connolly was busy and Fitzgerald could not speak to

him freely, never having met him before. Fitzgerald felt it would take very little under the circumstances to make Connolly angry. Pearse walked up to Fitzgerald with a sizable sheaf of ten pound notes, accompanied by the Volunteer who had laid hands on the manager of the Metropole Hotel. ' This young man has been out commandeering food, ' Pearse said ' Since you'll be in charge of provisions, will you go back with him to the places from which he took things and settle accounts. ' When Fitzgerald and the Volunteer entered the Metropole they found the manager still indignant. ' That young man asaulted me ' he said. The young Volunteer said ' I did no such thing. ' The manager replied ' You did, you took hold of me. ' ' I don't call that an assault ' replied the Volunteer. Before Fitzgerald had time to settle the argument, another man took hold of his arm, pulled him aside, identified himself as a newspaper reported, and asked for a statement. The manager grabbed Fitzgerald's arm and said ' I won't accpet this kind of treatment. ' Fitzgerald began to explain he had come there to pay for what the requisitioning party had taken. The newsman again asked him for a statement. The manager became more indignant. The Volunteer smiled sheepishly and shrugged. Fitzgerald, becoming impatient, escorted the reporter out of the hotel, then forced upon the manager the amount of money he had coming and hastened to depart. The swelling crowd in Sackville Street was beginning to develop an ominous character. As people became gradually aware of the withdrawl of the police, a mood of license, fostered by contempt for the play soldiers who had captured the Post Office, began to permeate the festive atmospjere. Bitterness was added to the contempt when women out of the slums lined up at the side door of the Post Office, where they had always collected their ' separation money. ' They presented a problem for which the insurgents had no happy solution. ' Separation money ' was the term used for the stipend the British government offered to those whose sons or husbands were serving in His Majesty's armed forces. Because there were about 150,000 such Irishmen in 1916, most of them from poorer families, the gathering of shawl-enshrouded slum women at the Post Office door was soon sizable and restless. But there was only one thing to tell them.

The sentries at the door kept trying to explain, ' You're no longer ruled by the English. You're citizens of the Irish Republic now. There'll ne no more separation money.' This patriotic message was not well received. As its full purport sank in, a rich Dublin Patois began to fill the air. 'Remarks such as ' Bastard!' ' Lousers! Shite-hawks! Bowsies! ' and ' Wait till the military gets here. They'll take care o'yiz. ' ' Wait till me husband comes back from France. He'll take care o'yiz all by himself. ' The sentries tried to be polite. ' Please go away, ' they said. ' There's nothing we can do. ' The mood of the women was not improved by the unfortunate incident that took place about three o'clock. A young Volunteer was sorting a basketful of supplies at a Henry Street window when one of his homemade grenades ( packaged in a Meadowland cigarette tin ) fell out of the basket and down behind a pair of hot pipes. It began to sizzle; smoke arose from it. The soldier turned in fright to run, thought suddenly about the danger to the men around him, came back and rooted behind the hot pipes until he got hold of the cigarette tin, then flung it out the window into the street, where the shawlies were gathered, shouting for their separation money. Luckily, it was about effective as most of the other homemade grenades. When it exploded, it reduced the women to silence for a moment, but it did not injure any of them. And its explosion was a mere rumble compared to the furious uproar that follwed, as the women quickly concluded that the bloody Sinn Feiners were now out to kill them all. Their fury seemed to raise them beyond fear. They bombarded the men in the Post Office with a salvo of obscenities and showed no inclination to disperse. A woman at the edge of the crowd, who was apparently not one of them, made the mistake of objecting to their language. She soon found herself in a vicous hair-pulling fight with a shawlie who objected to her objection. The men in the Post Office windows, relieved at this diversion of the crowd's attention, cheered the clumsy battle.

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' Dublin Shawlies. ' Sackville Street, Easter 1916

was now known to be holding the nearby City Hall with some difficulty. The men advanced westward along Fleet Street in the belief that the Dublin Telephone exchange apparently had been inadvertently overlooked. At Temple Bar, a few friendly civilians who were out to watch the fun told the insurgents they were heading for trouble. They could not long doubt the reliability of this information. As they moved along Fleet Street, a rude barrage of rifle fire greeted them from the exchange. They fell back into the nearest doorways to consider strategy. Another, more convincing, barrage of bullets bit into the pavement in front of them to help them make up their minds. Pudently, the small squad of insurgents returned to the Post office with the sad news that the plan to capture the telephone exchange had gone awry and that the enemy was firmly lodged there, just a few short blocks away.