IRA Proclamation

Jazmine Padilla, Kathryn Walsh, Esteban Lovato, Jenna McFarland

Irish Republican Army, 1939— broadside poster, the right hand portion announcing the IRA’s 1939 military campaign in England, the left portion reproducing the 1916 Proclamation

Three groups– the Irish Republican Brotherhood, The Irish Volunteers, and the Irish Citizen Army– were the instigators of the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland. The Irish Republican Army was first created in 1916 as the driving force behind the Easter Rising, when rebels declared Ireland to be an independent Republic, separate from the influence of England. When the Rebellion was successfully suppressed by British forces, the IRA continued to work for Irish independence, and worked closely with Sinn Féin during Ireland’s War of Independence. The main goal of the IRB (and their American counterpart, the Fenian Brotherhood) was to establish an independent government for Ireland that was free from Britain’s control. John O Mahony, the leader of the Fenian Brotherhood, had a huge impact as a revolutionary thinker by formulating the idea that an insurrection should occur when Britain was “under some powerful pressure from without,” such as a major war with another nation. Another group that was instrumental in planning the Easter uprising was the Irish Citizens Army. It was led by James Conolly and established in 1913 in order to fight against the low wages and horrid working conditions of the lower class Irish.  The IRB established a strong relationship with the Irish Citizens Army in addition to the IRA, so that together, these three groups planned the Rising of 1916 and fought for the rights and liberties of the Irish. Leaders executed as a result were Patrick Pearse, James O Connnoly , and Thomas Macdonagh executed

The Easter Rising of 1916 and the Proclamation that went with it were an important aspect of Irish history with global significance; they represented the fight for national sovereignty in the context of an imperialized world. The significance of a small nation rising up against an imperial power was noted and praised by many other revolutionaries of the time. The actual Proclamation itself put forth many ideas about the future of a free Irish state, including universal suffrage. This was an incredibly important idea because at the time, only about thirty percent of men, and no women, could vote in Ireland. The incorporation of universal suffrage in the Proclamation reflects the radical nature of the document; it supports an Irish government system that is “representative of the whole people of Ireland” and “elected by the suffrages of all her men and women” during a time when even British citizens did not have universal suffrage. This reflects the goal of the 1916 Proclamation to uphold an unrestricted Irish sovereignty and create an Irish government free from English influence. The revolutionaries believed that British control over institutions in Ireland was hindering the nation; the Proclamation conveys the Irish people’s desire to create a new Irish government that embodied their values. While the main drafter of the Irish Proclamation is unknown, it is suspected that it was Patrick Pearse, due to the writing style and rhetoric expressed in the document. He also likely had help from other people such as James Connell and Thoams Mcdonald. Since it was dangerous to be associated with Irish nationalism, the drafter remained anonymous. 

Due to this danger, the printers of “The 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic” deliberately staged an arrest before the document was printed; this provided them with the legal justification of working under duress if they were questioned about their voluntary involvement with the Proclamation. The printer that was used to print the Proclamation was in extremely poor condition and contained an outdated pattern. They also did not have enough type to print it and thus needed to borrow type from a variety of different printers; this created incorrect fonts in some cases. As a result of scarce materials, “The 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic” reflects inconsistencies such as breaks, font, and size differences throughout the paper. This is especially evident in the third last line of the third paragraph– the “e” in the words “herby,” “the,” and “independent” are much smaller than the rest of the letters. Additionally, this can also be seen through the phrase “To the people of Ireland.” Since the revolutionary printers were low on ink, the letter “e” in the word “the” was printed as an F and was added wax to help make it into an “e”. It is estimated that the document holds approximately thirty-one inconsistencies altogether. Aside from their struggle of scarce materials, the revolutionary printers also had to use low-quality materials, which caused the document to be produced with a greyish tinge, with smudges and fading. It was produced using Dublin’s stagger paper mills, on broadside paper. The printer was also of low quality, creating an old printing pattern to be embedded into the paper. The low quality of paper and print created further disparities. Unfortunately, since the revolutionary printers were not able to obtain enough type to print the Proclamation, they had to run the document through the printer twice.  They printed the first three paragraphs first and then when the words started to break up they reset the printer for a second run-through of the document to finish printing the rest of the document.  While the printing of the second part of the Proclamation was taking place, British soldiers found it and later used it as evidence against the leaders of the Rising.  Due to these complications, many inconsistencies in the font size and type can be seen throughout the document. They were also only able to print 1000 copies, compared to their goal of 2500 copies. Most of these were destroyed in the burning of Liberty Hall and throughout the Rising, but some original copies still exist to this day. The few remaining contain these inconsistencies in font, type, size, ink distribution. 

After the Treaty between Britain and Ireland in 1922, the IRA split into two groups, one which was loyal to the Irish Free State and one which was firmly anti-Treaty (and insisted from then on that they were the true IRA). The IRA opposed the Treaty primarily on the grounds that it “gave Great Britain a right of ratification over the permanent constitution of the Irish Free State by requiring that the latter comply with the Treaty.” However, after the IRA and their allies lost the Civil War, support for the organization lessened considerably. This only increased when the Irish government, led by de Valera, continued the process of making Ireland an independent nation, beginning in 1932. In 1937, in fact, “Ireland freely established its popularly endorsed constitution… without British interference and created an elected president as head of state.” Due to the process of establishing Ireland as a republic, the last real objection of the IRA to the forming Irish state was the partition that still separated the two sides of Ireland. Since the North was still under British control, the IRA formally declared war on England in 1939 and subsequently launched a bombing campaign in England, which this document announces. However, “The campaign was [ultimately] a failure and the upshot was the imprisonment and near-extinction of the IRA’s volunteers in both parts of Ireland as well as of its activists in England.” 

References

Connell, Joseph E.A. “Proclamation of the Irish Republic.” History Ireland, vol. 19, no. 1, 2011, pp. 66–66. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/41000275. Accessed 7 May 2021.

Hanly, Conor. “The 1916 Proclamation and Jury Trial in the Irish Free State.” Dublin University Law Journal, vol. 39, no. 2, 2016, p. 373-404. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.journals/dubulj39&i=389. Accessed 8 May 2021.

O’Leary, Brendan. “Mission Accomplished? Looking Back at the IRA.” Field Day Review, vol. 

1, 2005, pp. 217–246. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/30078613. Accessed 8 May 2021.

Sayers, Brian. “Easter 1916 and the Fenian Tradition.” Journal of Irish Studies, vol. 33, 2018, pp. 63–71. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/26547219. Accessed 8 May 2021.

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