The Easter Rising of 1916 had little chance of success (which its leaders knew) and initially had limited support from the Irish population, but a series of major mis-steps by British authorities lit a fuse that ultimately forced Britain withdraw from 26 counties of Ireland just six years later.
Timeline: At noon, Pádraig Pearse reads the Proclamation of the Irish Republic outside the General Post Office in Dublin to a bemused, and some reports suggest, amused crowd, not realising the import of his statement. Insurgents would occupy the GPO until Saturday, 29 April and a group of not much more than 1,000 Irish rebels would change history.
Ten minutes previously, a group of volunteers led a botched attempt to capture Dublin Castle, the seat of British authority in Ireland. The first casulty of the 1916 rising was a policeman on duty at Dublin castle.
Volunteer Helena Moloney stated later “It was at the castle the first shot was fired. I, with my girls, followed Sean Connolly and his party. We went right up to the Castle gate, up the narrow street. Just then a police sergeant came out, and seeing our determination he thought it was a parade, and that it would probably be going up Ship Street. When Connolly went to go past him, the sergeant put out his arm, and Connolly shot him dead. When the military guard saw that it was serious, he pulled the gates to.”
Buildings seized by the rebels included Boland’s Mills occupied by Eamonn de Valera and Jacobs factory occcupied by about 150 volunteers under the command of Thomas MacDonagh. As it was a bank holiday, many senior British personnel were enjoying a race day at Fairyhouse race track. In general, the administration was slow to react. The first serious action took place and probably the first time authorities appreciated the seriousness of events was when a group of mounted Lancers riding towards the GPO were shot at, killing at least three soldiers.
Documentary on Tom Clarke: http://youtu.be/YGLS7kXkqo0
Photo credit: 1916 Easter Rebellion in Colour