The 1916 Easter Rising
The story of Ireland’s relationship with England is one in which politics, rebellion and war have played decisive roles. So it is not surprising that, when the United Kingdom entered the theatre of WWI on 4 August 1914, the two other roles would be waiting in the wings.
Politics took the form of a Home Rule Bill for Ireland, given the Royal Assent on 18 September 1914, but "suspended for one year, or for the duration of the war, when it would be reviewed with a view to securing the general consent of Ireland and the United Kingdom."
War, on the home front, initially took the stage as patriotic duty. In the first year, some 80,000 Irishmen enlisted, joining 20,000 already serving and another 30,000 as first line reserve. Many hoped that defending "gallant little Belgium" would prove to be a war that would end all wars. As Thomas Kettle, the former Nationalist MP for East Tyrone who served and was killed as a Lieutenant in the 9th Royal Dublin Fusiliers, wrote: "Used with the wisdom which is sown in tears and blood, this tragedy of Europe may be and must be the prologue to the two reconciliations of which all statesmen have dreamed, the reconciliation of Protestant Ulster with Ireland, and the reconciliation of Ireland with Great Britain."
Rebellion was not yet part of the official script. It decided to make its own entry on 24 April 1916 when a group of Irish Nationalists seized key buildings in Dublin and declared an Irish Republic. In the ensuing week, some 2000 were either killed or wounded. What this rebellion set in motion was a sequence of events that eventually led to the founding of Eire, the modern Republic of Ireland.
It is well known that popular sentiment played a key role in all these events, and that it continues to influence their interpretation. Though a considerable amount of research on Irish and English sentiment has been undertaken, the precise chronology and archaeology of sentiment in the diaspora remains largely unknown. Despite the significant number of Irish people who emigrated here, the story of New Zealand’s engagement with and response to the 1916 Easter Rising is yet to be told.
An invitation to our conference
The Centre of Irish and Scottish Studies and Toitū Otago Settlers Museum are proud to be able to invite you to a two-day conference open to the public that brings together local and international experts to begin telling this story, a story that is part of your New Zealand heritage.
"'Yet no clear fact to be discerned': the New Zealand response to the 1916 Easter Rising" is one of several hundred international events that constitute "a call to action for the people of Ireland, the Diaspora and the friends of Ireland to remember 1916 as a pivotal time in Irish history, to reflect on the past 100 years, and to re-imagine the future."
— Professor Peter Kuch
Eamon Cleary Professor of Irish Studies
University of Otago
Quotations courtesy of Irish Government websites