Ever since the occupation of Ireland by the English began in 1169, Irish patriots have fought back against British rule, and the many Irish rebellions and civil wars had always been defeated. To quash further rebellion, the Act of Union was imposed in 1800, tying Ireland to the United Kingdom of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Laws discriminating against Catholics and the handling of the Irish Potato Famine of 1845-50 led to increased tension and the proposal of introducing Home Rule gained support.
In 1913 there was a general strike of workers in Dublin led by James Connolly of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union (I.T.G.W.U.). This action was followed by the 1913 Lock-Out during which employers literally locked workers out of their factories. Also in 1913 John Redmond, leader of the Irish Nationalist Party, created the Irish Volunteers to counter the Ulster Volunteers, an organisation created to fight against Home Rule. His chief-of-staff was Eoin MacNeill and his commandant was Patrick Pearse.
When World War I began, Irish nationalists flocked to sign up for Britain's war effort in the hundreds of thousands. They believed they were at last making Ireland one of the small nations of Europe, and that in showing their good faith in Britain they were ensuring Home Rule be passed. However, another more extreme tradition of patriotism considered Home Rule a sell-out. Thomas J. Clarke, who had been previously gaoled after being sent to England on a dynamiting mission in 1883, immigrated to America and then returned to Ireland in 1907. In his tobacconist's shop in Dublin the Irish Republican Brotherhood (I.R.B.), a group of patriots who wanted national independence, was being revived. He held a meeting with, among others, Patrick Pearse, Eoin MacNeill and Sean MacDermott, who had broken away with a minority of extremist Volunteers when Redmond co-operated with the war effort, and Connolly who was now the creator... [continues]
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