Sunday 14 April 2013

General Post Office, Dublin


One of the first things we did when we arrived in Dublin was to visit the General Post Office, the symbol of Irish nationalism, to pay our respects to those who fell while fighting for Irish Independence.

During the Easter  Rising of 1916, the Post Office served as the Headquarters for the Irish Republicans who staged the armed insurrection with the aims of ending British rule and establishing an independent Irish Republic. It was the most significant rebellion in Ireland since the rebellion of 1798. The Rising was suppressed after six days of fighting, and its leaders were court-martialled and executed, but it succeeded in bringing physical force Republicanism back to the forefront of Irish politics.

In December 1918, Republicans (then represented by the Sinn Fein party) won 73 Irish seats out of 105 in the 1918 General Election to the British Parliament, on a policy of abstentionism and Irish independence. In January 1919, the elected members of Sinn Fein who were not still in prison at the time, including survivors of the Rising, convened the First Dail and established the Irish Republic. The British government and Ulster Unionists refused to accept the legitimacy of the newly declared Republic, precipitating the Irish War of Independence.

A guerrilla war was then mounted by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) against the British government and its forces in Ireland which was brutally put down by the British.  Both sides agreed to a ceasefire on 11 July 1921 and the post-ceasefire talks led to the signing of a treaty which ended British rule for most of Ireland and the Irish Free State was established. However, the fact that six northern counties remained within the UK as Northern Ireland, led to a civil war between those who accepted the treaty, and those who opposed a settlement based on a divided Ireland. The pro-Treaty side won, but the armed struggle for Irish unity continued for many years to come.

'We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people. In every generation the Irish people have asserted their right to national freedom and sovereighty: six times during the past three hundred years they have asserted it in arms. Standing on that fundamental right and again asserting it in arms in the face of the world, we hereby proclaim the Irish Republic as a sovereign independent state and we pledge our lives and the lives of our comrades-in-arms to the cause of its freedom, of its welfare, and of its exaltation among the nations'.

'... he talked to the workers, spoke as only Jim Larkin could speak, not for an assignation with peace, dark obedience, or placid resignation; but trumpet-tongued of resistance to wrong, discontent with leering poverty and defiance of any power strutting out to stand in the way of their march onward'.

'Ireland is too great to be unconnected with us, and too near us to be dependant on a foreign state, and too little to be independent'. (C.T. Grenville to the Duke of Rutland, 1784). This statement sums up the attitude of Great Britain toward Ireland from the 12th century to the 20th.