1916 Rising Leaders
Éamonn Ceannt was born in Ballymoe, Co. Galway in 1881, the son of a R.I.C. officer. He was educated in Ballymoe at the Irish Christian Brother’s school. After leaving school he joined the Gaelic League, where he first met Patrick Pearse and Eoin MacNeil. He also worked for a time as an accountant. Ceannt was an extremely committed member of the League, and was elected a member of the governing body in 1905. He had a strong interest in Irish culture, especially in Irish language and history, and became increasingly involved in Nationalist movements.
In 1907 he joined the Dublin branch of Sinn Féin and in 1912 was sworn into the Irish Republican Brotherhood (I.R.B.). He was a co-founder of the Irish Volunteers and collected weapons in the Howth gun running operation of 1914. During the Rising he was commander of the 4th Battalion of Irish Volunteers and took control of the South Dublin Union (St. James’s Hospital). After the surrender he was court-martialed and sentenced to death by firing squad. He was executed at Killmainham Gaol on May 8th. A fellow prisoner remarked that Ceannt, “remained calm, brave, and gentle”, during the entire process.
Éamonn Ceannt Park in Dublin and Ceannt rail and bus station in Galway stand in remembrance.
Roger Casement was born in Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin in 1864 into an Anglo-Irish family. His father, Captain Roger Casement was a member of (The Kings Own) Regiment of Dragoons. He was raised in England where his mother Anne had him secretly baptized at age three, as a Roman Catholic. In the 1890’s Casement joined the British Consular Service and in the ensuing years held posts in Europe, Africa, and South America. Despite being a servant to the crown, Casement held strong views in favor of Irish independence from British rule. He joined the Irish Volunteers on their foundation in 1913.
With the outbreak of WWI in 1914 he supported Germany, in the hope that it would assist in the achievement of Irish independence. In 1914 he travelled to Germany in order to secure military aid and to persuade Irish prisoners of war to desert the British army and join the Irish Brigade. Casement tried to deter Nationalist leaders from a planned rising in order to obtain more arms, however it went ahead at Easter 1916. Casement himself returned from Germany by submarine, and having landed at Bannastrand near Tralee, Co. Kerry, he was arrested and taken to London on April 24th. He was charged with high treason, convicted and sentenced to death. He was hanged at Pentonville prison in London on Aug. 3.
Seán McDermott was born on Jan. 27 1883 in Corranmore, Co. Leitrim; a depressed area filled with reminders of the penal times of the 17th and 18th centuries, and deserted homes as an aftermath of the Hunger of the 1840’s. His father was a Fenian in Leitrim, where traditions of land agitation, resistance to landlords, police and troops were the tone of the day. As a result he was extremely pro independence. He was educated by Irish Christian Brothers and in 1908 moved to Dublin.
McDermott was already involved in several separatist movements including Sinn Féin, the I.R.B., the A.O.H. and the Gaelic League. He was soon promoted to the Supreme Council of the I.R.B. and eventually elected secretary. In 1910 he and Thomas Clarke became national organizers for the I.R.B. In November 1913 McDermott was one of the original members of the Irish Volunteers. He was arrested in May 1915, in Tuam, Co. Galway for giving speeches against the British army.
After his release in Sept. 1915, he joined the secret Military Committee of the I.R.B., which was responsible for planning the Rising. It is considered that he and Thomas Clarke were the two persons most responsible for the enactment of the Rising. Following the surrender he was court-martialed on May 9th, and executed by firing squad at Killmainham Gaol on May 12. While being marched into captivity when a comrade said, “well that’s all Seán, I wonder what’s next”? He replied “the cause is lost if some of us are not shot”.
Thomas Clarke was born Mar 11, 1858 at Hurst Castle, Milford-on-sea, Hampshire, England to Irish parents. His father was a Sergeant in the British army and the family eventually relocated to Dungannon, Co. Tyrone. Clarke remained a proponent of armed revolution for most of his life. In 1878 Clarke joined the I.R.B. and in August of that year after a member of the R.I.C. shot and killed a man during riots between the Orange Order and the Ancient Oder of Hibernians in Dungannon, Clarke and other I.R.B. members attacked some R.I.C. men. Fearing arrest Clarke fled to the U.S.
In 1883 he was sent to London to blow up London Bridge as part of the Fenian dynamite campaign taking place at the time and advocated by the I.R.B. He was arrested, convicted and sentenced to 15 years in Pentonville jail and other prisons. He was released on 1898. Clarke was stationed at the G.P.O. during the events of Easter week.
Following the surrender on April 29th, Clarke was held in Killmainham Gaol until his execution by firing squad on May 3. He was the second person to be executed following Patrick Pearse.
Éamonn De Valera was born in 1882 in New York City. His mother was Irish and his father was Spanish. De Valera was one of the leaders in the Uprising but is noted more for the role he played in Ireland’s history afterwards. He hated what he considered to be the English domination of Ireland. He joined Sinn Féin and was a Battalion Commander for the Irish Volunteers, who fought at Boland’s Hill during the Uprising.
He was captured, put on trial, convicted and sentenced to death, however his sentence was commuted to imprisonment on account of the fact that he was born in America. He served one year in Lewes
Prison in Sussex, England. When he returned to Ireland in 1917, he became president of Sinn Féin. He immediately started resisting English rule and was again arrested. He was sent to Lincoln Prison from which he escaped in 1919, and went to America. De Val-era spent a year and a half traveling the country trying to raise funds for what was to be the independence effort. He raised over two million dollars. A lot of this money went into the newly formed “Irish Republican Army” (I.R.A. –– which was formed in 1919). After Irish Independence, and the civil war, which ensued in 1922, De Valera founded a new political party called Fianna Fáil. He went on to serve as Prime Minister for 16 years, beginning in 1932. He was later re-elected P.M. and served from 1951-54 and again 1957-59. In 1959 he was elected President of the Irish Republic –– an election he won again in 1966. De Valera died in 1975.
Eoin MacNeill was born in 1867 in Co. Antrim to catholic parents. He was educated at St. Malachy’s College in Belfast, and became a law clerk. In 1893 he helped found the Gaelic League, an organization devoted to the preservation of the Irish language and culture. He later became the first professor of early and medieval Irish history at University College Dublin.
MacNeill advocated the formation of a national volunteer force on the lines of the Ulster Volunteer Force. He helped create the Irish Volunteers, whose main aim was to safeguard Home Rule, and became Chief of Staff. Their numbers swelled to 170,000 before a major split over Home Rule with John Redmond, the leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party. The majority of Volunteers remained with Redmond. The Irish Republican Brotherhood (I.R.B), which advocated full independence, recruited the remaining Volunteers for the Rising. On Easter Sunday MacNeill countermanded the orders of the I.R.B. Military Council to begin the Rising –– with which he disagreed. Argument persists to this day as to the effects of MacNeill’ countermand, to how many Volunteers remained inactive, and to how it may have shifted the outcome of the Rising. He died in 1945.