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Chapters

The 1916 Easter Rising

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into a chair near him. ' If only they had held this thing off until we were ready, ' he said. Fitzgerald nodded. Both men were so aware of the mistakes already made in judgement, in tactics, in execution that it was pointless to discuss them at length. The question of timing was paramount, of course. Had the rising been held off long enough for proper planning, O'Rahilly would have joined it with his entire heart. But who had decided Easter was the only time? It sounded like one of Pearse's messianic notions. The resurrection of Ireland. Or was it the result of Connolly's endless pressure? He simply couldn't wait. He had wanted to rise in January. The fact of the uprising seemed more important to him than its success. What had happened at that three-day January session between Connolly and the IRB boys? They had apparently talked him out of rising immediately, but at what cost? He had apparently forced a promise from them to rise by easter. What made them, though, that they could get away with comitting all 9,000 members of the Volunteers without even informing the president of the organisation about their plans? If they thought they would be able to handle Macneill, they had slightly misjudged him. They should have kidnapped him too, when they kidnapped Hobson. And how could they have failed to make connections with the German munitions ship? If it arrived in Tralee Thursday night, why was there no one on hand to unload it? Apparently they hadn't expected it it until Saturday. Could there have been that much of a
misunderstanding? Not until Friday had they even sent men down to set up

dublin city hall

City Hall Dublin

radio communications with it. And then to have those men drive off the Ballykissane pier, after the Germans had already scuttles their ship to keep the guns out of British hands - it was too much to contemplate. All those precious guns, the only hope the uprising ever had, sitting on the bottom of the Atlantic, simply, because there had been no men on hand to unload them at Tralee Thursday night. O'Rahilly was convinced that, under the circumstances, he had been right to talk to MacNeill into issuing the counterman or Saturday. Without the German guns and ammunition, it was suicide to face the power of the British military. Why couldn't Pearse and Connolly and Plunkett see that? The strategy Plunkett had worked out in his military plan for the uprising did not seem destined to revolutionise warfare. Why had they decided to make the Post Office their central stronghold? Merely because it was on the city's principal street? Sandwiched in between all the downtown buildings, it would not be esy to defend, nor did it command any strategic area around it. Why hadn't they taken Trinity College ad the Bank of Ireland? They might then, at least, have created a bottleneck. Who was it that forgot to destroy the telephone exchange? In an hour, they could have cut the government's communications all over Ireland. And what about the Castle? There were rumours in the Post Office that the Castle could have been taken Monday, that it was virtually undefended when Sean Connolly and his men made their hit-and-run attack on it. They had cemented themselves into a purely defensive position; nothing was left to do but wait for the slaughte and meet it bravely. If only one could find some justification for leading all these good men and women to the slaughter. However, did Pearse, Connolly and the other leaders see something that no one else could see. Surely they could not take on the might of the British Empire and win. Did they have the vision to see that in defeat the true face of the British government and its brutality would show its ugly face in their subsequent execution and cause the people to rise. The same brutality which had existed in the country for hundreds of years, and one which people were happy to forget. They would be proved right in their subsequent trails when the rising had eneded. Although few in numbers, they had hope in their hearts that their sacrifice may set Ireland free. It was only by their sacrifice that the Irish people would see deep down that in reality nothing had changed corncerning the British treatment of theIrish people and that justice was swift and without mercy. O'Rahilly was unable to conceal his depression, but Fitzgerald marvelled at him for not speaking of the one thing that must have disturbed him most - the fact that he had left a devoted wife and family to give his life in an action that not only lacked the assent ofhis own judgement but hadbeen provoked by men who had shown him no respect. ' Have you heard anything from the family, ' Fitzgerald asked. ' I got a note out to them yesterday, ' O'Rahilly said. ' I'm sending another today. ' After a moment he turned away from Fitzgerald, stood up, and without looking back, headed for the stairway to the top floor.

James Connolly had reason to feel troubled. Those reports from the country, however unreliable they might be, were not reassuring. There were other reports even less so. British troops were said to be arriving at Amiens Street, Kingsbridge and Westland Row by the trainload from all over Ireland. Would they dare strip the country garrisons of there were signs of trouble outside Dublin? And the pitiful insurgent forces at City Hall and the Daily Mail building across the street from it were now completely isolated, with British units pounding them from all sides. He disliked even to listen to the

reports his couriers brought him. Concerened about the vulnerability of the Post office from the direction of Amiens Street, he went out to inspect the Earl Street barricade and was shocked at the flimsy appearance of it. In a loud, questioning voice he called for Brennan Whitmore, who was emerging from a nearby building, having been told of Connolly's approach. ' Whitmore. what's the good of this thing? ' Connolly demanded. ' It'll never withstand a charge. Schoolgirls could knock it over. ' Whitmore smiled. ' If you think so sir, try it. ' Connolly gave it a kick, then grabbed hold of a chair leg protruding from it and yanked with all his strength. The barricade didn't budge. ' It's interlaced with wires, ' Whitmore pointed out. Connolly examined the work closely, allowed a momentary smile to cross his face, then sobering, pointed to a shoe shop on the opposite corner ' have you occupied that building? ' I don't have enough men, ' Whitmore replied. Connolly thought about this a moment. He might easily have replied that he had the same problem himself, but he said simply, ' Good luck. ' He shook hands with Whitmore, then turned and strode back briskly toward the Post Office. Whitmore, gazing after him, reflected sadly on the magnitude of the task ahead of him and ahead of all of them. Whitmore had no illusions. The chances of military success seemed to him outside the bounds of reasonable calculation. Yet when he looked at men like Connolly, he could still dream of miracles.

The sackville Street scene began to pick up as the morning progressed. Sightseeing crowds of proper Dubliners had come downtown to find out what all the turmoil was about, inspect the barricades, descry both the lack of police and the absence of the military. The town was filling up with troops. Why didn't they come here where they were needed and put this nonsense down? Well-dressed people glanced disapprovingly at the Post Office with all those rifle barrels protruding from its windows and silhouetted figures behind the rifles. Pretty girls listened intently as their escorts explained the intricacies of the situation. Discussions began and knots of people gathered around to argue about what should be done. Everyone deplored the looting that had been seen so rampant the previous day except the looters themselves, who were beginning now to reappear, many of them already drunk, in their newly acquired ill-fitting outfits. Though it was not yet noon, they were already floating on the leftovers of the liquor they had snatched the night before. One ' ould one ' who had abandoned her shawl in favor of a new flowered hat let fly such a stream of profanity in the direction of the Post Office windows ( she hadn't forgotten how those bowsies had robbed her of her ' separation money ' the day before ) that gentlemen with ladies on their arms quickly moved away. And there were few smiles on the faces of the men in the windows who heard her. The atmosphere throughout the Post office was becoming more serious as the men continued to wonder, with increasing tention, when the British attack would begin.