At four minutes past noon on Easter Monday, April 24, 1916, nationalist leader Padraig Pearse, stood on the steps of the General Post Office in Dublin City and read aloud the newly-written Proclamation of the Republic.
The Proclamation is probably the most important piece of paper in Irish history…but what does it actually say?
1. It starts with a few words in Ireland’s native tongue
“Poblacht na hÉireann”, it begins. It’s addressing the people of Ireland in Irish, and these are the only words in Irish, the rest of the text is written in English. The proclamation was penned by a group of seven men who took on the role of the “provisional government” of the brand new Irish republic.
2. It’s part poetry, part propaganda
The proclamation begins with a flourish: “Irishmen and Irishwomen: In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom.”
3. Unsurprisingly, it references Ireland’s struggle to break free from British rule
The proclamation credits “Ireland’s secret revolutionary organisations” such as The Irish Republican Brotherhood and its military organisations (the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army) with the victory.
4. It mentions and credits the help from our ‘allies’
The second paragraph talks about Ireland’s outside support from aboard, including “her exiled children in America” and perhaps more surprisingly her “gallant allies in Europe”. These gallant allies are the Germans, who were due to send guns to help the Irish fight for freedom. Had the guns arrived in time, the Germans would likely have been named. However the proclamation is clear about one point – Ireland won the war by “relying in the first on her own strength”.
5. The third paragraph gets down to business
Here the Proclamation sets out the rights for all of Ireland’s people: “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 Republic guarantees “religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities” to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to” pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally.”
6. It’s not all secular stuff
The Proclamation asks that the new Irish Republic fall under the protection of “the Most High God”.
The issue of whether the Irish war for independence can or should be seen as a religious war as well as a political one is contested.
James Connolly was a “firm believer in the perils of sectarian division” who campaigned tirelessly against religious bigotry and the their is no doubt that the aspiration of the rebels was to create an Ireland where all people could be free and equal regardless of their wealth, class or religion.
7. It was signed by seven men
All of those who signed the Proclamation realised by putting their names on this piece of paper, they were signing a death warrant.
They were: Éamonn Ceannt, James Connolly, Joseph Plunkett, Patrick Pearse, Seán MacDiarmada, Thomas MacDonagh and Tom Clarke. All seven were executed by firing squad (although not all at the same time) by the British government soon after for their role in The Rising.