The Triumph of Failure - Ireland 1916; How 800 years of British rule led to violent rebellion
The shooting began shortly after one in the afternoon of Easter Monday, April 24, 1916. The first to die - a 19-year-old Irish nurse named Margaret Keogh. She was shot by a British sniper as she tended to a wounded rebel. By the time the fighting ended that Saturday, 485 people had been killed. Most of the dead were civilians, including a number of children.
Henry the Eighth made the island England's first colony. Over the next few centuries, Irish Catholics saw their civil and religious rights denied and were treated like serfs in their own land. The Irish tried several times to cast off the British yoke ... in 1798, with an aborted invasion by the French, and again in 1803. There was an attempted revolution in 1848. All ended in failure.
The potato famine of the 1840s inflamed Irish nationalism. A million people starved to death. A million more left Ireland, many of them immigrating to Canada. Irish men and women, both at home and in the Irish Diaspora, felt that Britain was not only indifferent to their plight, but actively supported the further oppression of a broken people. Secret nationalist societies sprang up, such as the Irish Republican Brotherhood and the Fenian Society, which promoted independence through violence. Scattered throughout the bloody pages of that history are the names of heroes like Daniel O'Connell and martyrs like Robert Emmett.
Late in the 19th Century, the Irish Parliamentary party worked at Westminster for Home Rule - long discussed by the British government. And discussed and discussed some more. The Rising of 1916 erupted against the backdrop of the First World War. England lost interest in Home Rule ... it wanted young Irish recruits to fight Kaiser Bill on the Western Front of Europe. At least 200,000 served. About 50,000 died for England's cause.
Ireland is a republic of the imagination, an island of mists and myths, fed and restored by the tide pools of its history. We have come here to Dublin to decode those myths and mysteries, unlock the true meaning of the Rising and to take the measure of Ireland 100 years on. Dublin a hundred years later struggles with all the tensions and turmoil of any modern Western metropolis. The city has soup kitchens and homeless people ... drugs and gangland shootings ... house prices beyond the reach of young people. And at the core of its culture and its politics, the burden of its history.
In the words of Ireland's greatest poet, a terrible beauty was born.