CHAPTER XXV. THE EASTER WEEK REBELLION AND AFTERWARDS

A world preoccupied with the tremendous movements of mighty armies woke up one morning and rubbed its eyes in amazement to read that a rebellion had broken out in the capital of Ireland. How did it happen? What did it mean? What was the cause of it? These and similar questions were being asked, and those who were ready with an answer were very few indeed. The marvellous thing, a matter almost incredible of belief, is that it caught the Irish Government absolutely unawares. Their Secret Service Department might as well not have been in existence. For the first time probably in Irish history an Irish movement had come into being which had not a single "informer" in its ranks. This in itself was a remarkable thing and to be noted. The leaders and their officers had accomplished the remarkable achievement of discriminating against the Secret Service agent.

Although everything was clouded in a mist of conjecture and obscurity at the time, the causes of the Rebellion of Easter Week are now fairly clear, and may be shortly summarised. From the moment that the Redmondite Party had imposed their conditions on the Committee of the Irish Volunteers the vast bulk of the Volunteers who were not also "Mollies" were thoroughly dissatisfied with the arrangement. This discontent increased when the recruiting campaign in Ireland was conducted with calculated offence to Nationalist sentiment and self-respect, and eventually developed into a split. The members of the original Committee as a result summoned a Volunteer Convention for 25th November 1914, at which it was decided to declare: "That Ireland cannot with honour or safety take part in foreign quarrels otherwise than through the free action of a National Government of her own; and to repudiate the claim of any man to offer up the blood and lives of the sons of Irishmen and Irishwomen to the service of the British Empire while no National Government which could act and speak for the people of Ireland is allowed to exist."

The new body, or rather the old, resumed the original title of the Irish Volunteers. There were also a number of other bodies entirely out of harmony with the policy of the Parliamentary Party, such as Sinn Feiners, the Republicans, and the Citizen Army of Dublin's workers organised in connection with Liberty Hall. These were all opposed to recruiting, and the extremists amongst them advocated total separation from England as the cardinal article of their faith. A new Separatist daily newspaper was published in Dublin under the title Eire - Ireland. Its attitude towards the war was that Ireland had no cause of quarrel with the German people, or just cause of offence against them; and it was not long before the Irish Volunteers came to be regarded by the British authorities as a "disaffected" organisation. Its organs in the Press were promptly suppressed, only for others as promptly to take their place. Its officers began to be deported without charge preferred or investigation of any sort. Fenian teachings became popular once more and "the Old Guard" of Ireland, who had remained ever loyal to their early Fenian faith, must have felt a pulsing of their veins when they saw the doctrines of their hot youth take shape again. The eyes of a small but resolute minority of Irish Nationalists began to see in red revolution the only hope of Irish freedom. Physical force may appear a hopeless policy but it was at least worth preparing for, and it may be also it would be worth the trial. This was their creed and this the purpose that animated them. There can be no doubt that through the medium of the old Irish Republican Brotherhood, which had never quite died out in Ireland, communications were kept up with the Clan-na-Gael and other extreme organisations in the United States, and through these avenues also probably with Germany. Indeed the German Foreign Office, quite early in the war, at the instigation of Sir Roger Casement had declared formally "that Germany would not invade Ireland with any intentions of conquest or of the destruction of any institutions." If they did land in the course of the war, they would come "inspired by good will towards a land and a people for whom Germany only wishes national prosperity and freedom."

The avowedly revolutionary party gained a great accession of strength when Mr P.H. Pearse and Mr James Connolly composed certain differences and united the workers in the Citizen Army with the Irish Volunteers. Mr Pearse was now the leader of the latter organisation - a man of high intellectual attainments, single-minded purpose, and austere character. "For many years," writes Mr Henry, "his life seems to have been passed in the grave shadow of the sacrifice he felt that he was called upon to make for Ireland. He believed that he was appointed to tread the path that Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone had trodden before him, and his life was shaped so that it might be worthy of its end."