Independence. Identity. Ownership. What leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising strived and fought for. The goal was to take over Dublin city in hopes the rest of Ireland would rise in support; out of the 10,000 people committed to partake in the uprising, only 1,600 contributed. By the fourth day, 12,000 British troops arrived in Dublin, significantly outnumbering the rebels. Seeing an imminent defeat (and to avoid further deaths), they surrendered on the sixth day. Over 400 people were killed, 300 being civilians, and around 2,500 were wounded.
As we reflect 100 years back, we’re able to see how the Easter Rising planted the seed for Ireland’s pursuit towards independence. Although their efforts initially failed, in the aftermath it convinced people to shift focus, become politically active, and oppose British rule. As resentment flagrantly rose, so did support for complete Irish freedom – ownership of their country and retaining their cultural identity. The War of Independence stemmed in 1919 and by 1922 became the Irish Free State, with an official declaration in 1949 enacting the Irish Republic.
To commemorate those who paved the way for Irish freedom, an exhibit presented by the Ward Irish Music Archives showcases photographs from the rebellion and its leaders. The exhibit can be found at the Celtic MKE Center (formerly the Irish Fest Center) and through touring presentations at a variety of Irish festivals and other programming events.
On Sunday, April 24, 2016, the exhibit traveled to Milwaukee City Hall. A gathering took place to remember the Rising with a reading both in Gaelic and English of the Proclamation, as well as a poem and letter recitation, and song. The full event can be viewed in the video below. We continue to memorialize the week that significantly shaped Ireland’s future.