From 1915 Kerry was central to plans for the Rising. In autumn of that year Austin Stack, the leader of the Volunteers in Kerry and a member of the IRB was informed by Pádraig Pearse of the plans for the Rising. Arrangements were being made for an arms shipment from Germany to arrive in Tralee Bay on Easter Sunday 23 April 1916. Stack and the Kerry Volunteers were to receive and distribute the arms among the Volunteers of Kerry, Clare, Cork, Limerick and Galway.
The Aud, with its cargo of arms and ammunition, arrived in Tralee Bay on 20 April, Holy Thursday, instead of Easter Sunday and nobody was there to meet it. The ship waited until early Good Friday morning by which time it attracted the attention of HMS Bluebell. A chase took place culminating in the scuttling of the ship in Cork harbour. The guns and munitions destined for the rebels are now at the bottom of Cork harbour.
Sir Roger Casement had been in Germany since 1914 organising this shipment of arms, amongst other supports. He arrived in Tralee Bay on board a German U-boat around midnight on Holy Thursday. Shortly after landing he was arrested by the RIC and brought to Ardfert barracks. Later that day, Good Friday, he was brought to Tralee barracks and on the morning of Holy Saturday he was transferred from Tralee, via Dublin, to London. The failure to land the arms and Casement’s arrest had a significant impact nationally, leading to Eoin MacNeill’s countermanding order calling off the Rising.
By this stage, however, the first casualties of the Rising had already taken place in Kerry. On Good Friday evening three men drowned at Ballykissane pier near Killorglin: Con Keating from Reenard, Co. Kerry; Charles Monahan from Belfast; and Domhnall Sheehan from Limerick. The men were on active service, engaged on a special mission direct from G.H.Q. in Dublin, to retrieve wireless equipment from the Atlantic Wireless College in Caherciveen.
Austin Stack was arrested on the afternoon of Good Friday in Tralee RIC Barracks. He was transported on Holy Saturday to Cork leaving Tralee and Kerry without a leader for the rebellion. On Easter Sunday, despite the setbacks of the previous days, the Kerry Volunteers mobilised in Tralee. Contingents arrived from throughout the county over the course of the day. Dingle, Boolteens, Churchill, Cahirciveen, Ballymacelligott and Tralee were all represented with a total of 316 men. Before any action could take place, news arrived in Tralee of the order countermanding the rebellion, and the men dispersed later that day.
The countermanding order had the effect of confining the Rising largely to the Dublin region when it started the next day.