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."

Separation as the only road to independence was the burden of Pearse's teaching. It was his definite purpose to do something which, by the splendour of the sacrifice involved, would rouse Ireland out of its national apathy and national stupor. He and his associates believed, as a writer in Nationality declared: "We have the material, the men and stuff of war, the faith and purpose and cause for revolution.... We shall have Ireland illumined with a light before which even the Martyrs' will pale: the light of Freedom, of a deed done and action taken and a blow struck for the Old Land." It was in this faith they went forth to their sacrifice. "On Palm Sunday 1916," writes Mr Henry, "the Union of Irish Labour and Irish Nationality was proclaimed in a striking fashion. In the evening of that day Connolly hoisted over Liberty Hall, the headquarters of the Citizen Army, the Irish tricolour of orange, white, and green, the flag designed by the Young Irelanders in 1848 to symbolise the union of the Orange and Green by the white bond of a common brotherhood. On Easter Monday the Irish Republic was proclaimed in Arms in Dublin."

Now there are many considerations that could be usefully discussed in relation to the Easter Week Rebellion, but this is not the time or place for them. Let it be made clear, however, that the Rising was not the work of Sinn Fein, but of the leaders of the Irish Volunteers and the Citizen Army. It would be a pretty subject of inquiry to know how Sinn Fein got the credit for the Rising and why the title was given to the new movement that came into being afterwards. My own view is that the British journalists who swarmed into Ireland are chiefly responsible for the designation. Sinn Fein was a fine mouthful for their British readers to swallow, and so they gave it to them. Be this as it may, the Rebellion came to be referred to as the Sinn Fein Rebellion, and the movement to which it gave birth has ever since assumed the same name. It is not my intention to dwell on the grave incidents that followed, the prolonged agony of "the shootings of the Rebel leaders," the assassination of Mr Sheehy-Skeffington, the indecent scenes in the House of Commons when the Nationalist members behaved themselves with sad lack of restraint - cheering Mr Birrell's prediction that "the Irish people would never regard the Dublin Rebellion with the same feelings with which they regarded previous rebellions," cheering still more loudly when, in response to Sir Edward Carson's invitation to Mr Redmond to join him in "denouncing and putting down those Rebels for evermore," Mr Redmond expressed, to the amazement of all Nationalist Ireland, his "horror and detestation" of Irishmen who, however mistaken they may be - and history has yet to decide this - at least "poured out their blood like heroes - as they believed and as millions of their countrymen now believe for Ireland" (Mr William O'Brien). Mr Dillon, needless to say, flung his leader overboard on this occasion without the slightest truth. He declared he had never stood on a recruiting platform (which was not true!) and that he never would do so, and accused the Government and the soldiers of washing out the life-work of the Nationalists in "a sea of blood."

The Government were at their wits' end what to do. Mr Birrell, the amiable and inefficient Chief Secretary, had to go. Mr Asquith went over to Ireland on a tour of investigation and returned to Westminster with two dominant impressions: (1) the breakdown of the existing machinery of Irish Government; (2) the strength and depth, almost the universality, of the feeling in Ireland that there was a unique opportunity for the settlement of outstanding problems and for a combined effort to obtain an agreement as to the way in which the government of Ireland was to be carried on for the future. He announced that Mr Lloyd George had undertaken, at the request of his colleagues, to devote his time and energy to the promotion of an Irish settlement.

Undoubtedly "the machinery of Government had broken down." But the Government of England had taken no account of what was happening in Ireland - of the veritable wave of passion that swept the country after, the "executions" of the Rebel leaders, of the manner in which this passion was fanned and flamed by the arrest and deportation of thousands of young men all over the country, who were believed to be prominently identified with the Volunteer Movement, of the unrest that was caused by the reports that a number of the peaceable citizens of Dublin were deliberately shot without cause by the troops during the military occupation of the city. What wonder that there was a strong and even fierce revulsion of feeling! And this was not reserved altogether for the Government. The Irish Parliamentarians had their own fair share of it. The process of disillusionment now rapidly set in. That portion of the country that had not already completely lost faith in the Party and in Parliamentary methods was fast losing it. It only required that the Party should once again give its unqualified assent, as it did, to Mr Lloyd George's "Headings of Agreement," which provided for the partition of Ireland and the definite exclusion of the six counties of Down, Antrim, Londonderry, Armagh, Monaghan and Tyrone, to send it down into the nethermost depths of popular favour and the whole-hearted contempt of every self-respecting man of the Irish race. The collapse of Parliamentarianism was now complete. There was no Nationalist of independent spirit left in Ireland who would even yield it lip service. Irish public bodies which a year or two previously were the obedient vehicles of Party manipulation were now unanimous in denouncing any form of partition. The proposals for settlement definitely failed, and the machinery of Irish Government which had "broken down" was set up afresh and the discredited administration of Dublin Castle fully restored by the appointment of Mr Duke, a Unionist, as Chief Secretary for Ireland.

The war was not going at all well for the Allies. America was still hesitating on the brink as to whether she would come in or remain steadfastly aloof. The Asquithian Ministry had been manoeuvred out of office under circumstances which it will be the joy of the historian to deal with when all the documents and facts are available. That interesting and candid diarist, Colonel Repington, under date 3rd December 1916, writes:

"Last Friday began a great internal crisis, when L.G. [Lloyd George] wrote to the P.M. [Asquith] that he could not go on unless our methods of waging war were speeded up. He proposed a War Council of three, including himself, Bonar Law and Carson. The two latter are with him, which means the Unionists too."

Asquith resigned, the Coalition Ministry was formed, and it is probably more than a surmise that the part played by Sir Edward Carson in bringing about this result and in elevating Mr Lloyd George into the Premiership explains much of the power he has exercised over him ever since. Mr Redmond and Sir Edward Carson were both invited to join the Coalition. The former declined, the latter accepted, and from his position of power within the Cabinet was able to torpedo Home Rule at will.

And thus came to an end in Ireland as gross a tyranny perpetrated in the sacred name of Nationality as ever disgraced our annals. The Party which had so long held power had destroyed themselves by years of selfish blundering. The country was growing weary of the men who killed land purchase, constituted themselves the mere dependents of an English Party in exchange for boundless jobbery, intensified the alarm of Ulster by transferring all power and patronage to a pseudo-Catholic secret organisation, and crowned their incompetence by accepting a miserably inadequate Home Rule Bill (with Partition twice over thrown in). The country which had been shackled into silence by the terrorist methods of the Board of Erin (which made the right of free meeting impossible by the use of their batons, bludgeons and revolvers) was emancipated by the Dublin Rising. And in the scale of things it must be counted, for the young men who risked their lives in Easter Week, not the least of their performances that they gave back to the people of Ireland the right of thinking and acting for themselves. How well they used this right to exact a full measure of retribution from the Party that had betrayed them the General Election of 1918 abundantly shows.