Today in Irish History
1916: Easter Rising, Day 5
British solidiers burn the GPO which the rebels held since Monday April 24th. After a week that reduced much of central Dublin to ruin, British forces numbering close to 20,000 troops finally force a rebel force of a 1000 Irish men and women to surrender.
At 12.45pm, Elizabeth O’Farrell, one of three women in the GPO during the Rising walks towards British troops with a white flag. The British insist on unconditional surrender and at 3.30pm Pádraig Pearse surrenders his troops.
Elizabeth O’Farrell speaks to a senior British officer:
“The commandant of the Irish Republican Army wishes to treat with the commandant of the British forces in Ireland.”
“The Irish Republican Army? – the Sinn Féiners, you mean,” he replied.
“No, the Irish Republican Army they call themselves and I think that is a very good name too.”
Over the following hours, the garrisons at Boland’s Mills, Jacobs Factory and other locations lay down their arms.
The Rising had not been popular amongst Dubliners because of the death and destruction it had brought about. As rebel prisoners were being marched off, they were subject to abuse and jeering by many Dubliners, emotions that would change dramatically within a few weeks.
Sources differ about the number of British casualties, but it seems to have been about 110 killed and over 350 wounded. Over 60 Irish rebels died during the insurrection. A further 15 would be executed between May 3-12.
Had British authorities not reacted in such a ham-fisted manner, the Rising of 1916 might have been just another footnote in Irish history. The executions of the leaders in the following weeks would ignite a firestorm that Britain would not quell.
Image: Pearse surrenders. To his right (obscured) is Elizabeth O’Farrell.