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POSTCARDS: EASTER 1916 SET 5

The O'Rahilly

Michael O'Rahilly was the first of the actual leaders of the Rebellion to die and the only one killed in action. Although a founding member of the Irish Volunteers who believed that armed revolt was the only way to end British rule in Ireland, he opposed the timing of the Easter Rising but felt honour bound to participate once it had started, deciding that 'having helped to wind the clock he must come to hear it strike'. When fires in the GPO became unbearable, The O'Rahilly led a group in a charge up Moore Street and got as far as the corner of Ridley Road and Moore Lane when he was shot. Crawling to a nearby doorway he had time to write a final note to his wife Hannah, who he left behind, along with three sons. 'It was a good fight anyhow,' he said.


Francis Sheehy-Skeffington
Arrested on Easter Tuesday, 1916, and Shot without trial at Portobello Barracks, April 26th.

One of the most senseless tragedies of the Easter Rebellion involved this well-known pacifist writer who took no part in the rising. An ardent supporter of women's rights and a bit of an 'eccentric', Skeffington was arrested along with two other civilians, taken to Portobello Barracks and shortly thereafter shot by firing squad. The orders were given by a mentally unstable British officer, Captain Bowen-Colthurst, who was carrying on his own private campaign against the 'Sinn Feiners'. At first the British tried to cover up Colthurst's actions but continued protests led to his formal court-martial on June 6th. He was found guilty but insane and incarcerated in Broadmoor Criminal Asylum. Colthurst spent 20 months there, then emigrated to Canada to retire on a military pension.


Eoin MacNeill, B.A.
(President Irish Volunteers), Sentenced by Courtmartial to Penal Servitude for Life.

The official leader of the Irish Volunteers was Eoin MacNeill, a distinguished academic and cofounder of the Gaelic League. He believed that the Volunteers should only resort to violence if the government threatened to disarm them, and upon being informed that an actual armed uprising was to take place over the Easter weekend, refused to sanction it. When he learned that, in fact, the British government was planning to disarm the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army after the holiday weekend, he agreed the rising should go ahead... but once again withdrew his support upon learning that Roger Casement, who was attempting to land a boatload of arms from Germany, had been captured by the British over the weekend. Concerned with the inevitable loss of life in what seemed a hopeless cause, MacNeill decided to do everything in his power to stop the armed rebellion and took out an ad in the Sunday Independent cancelling the scheduled 'manoeuvres'.


Éamon de Valera

At the time of the rising, Éamon de Valera was a young mathematics teacher who commanded a Rebel garrison at Boland's Mills, guarding the southeast approaches to the city. Born in New York of a Spanish father and an Irish mother, de Valera had been raised in Ireland from an early age after the death of his father. After the Rebels surrendered in Dublin, de Valera was court-martialled and sentenced to death, but this sentence was quickly commuted to penal servitude. After serving time in jail in England, he was released in June of 1917. He then began a long career in Irish politics, eventually serving as President of Ireland from 1959 to 1973. He died in 1975 at age 92.


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