Wednesday 23 August 2017

Robert Fisk: Britain feared civil war in Ireland more than it feared war in Europe 100 years ago

Was the British Empire about to crumble from within?

Padraig Pearse
Padraig Pearse

Robert Fisk

WHEN I was researching the execution of Chinese workers employed by the British on the Western Front of the Great War at the Public Record Office, I found, among the papers, the official notice of the death by firing squad of Padraig Pearse and the other “rebels” of the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin.

Pearse and his brother Willie, and Connolly and McBride and the other 10 men put to death in Dublin on the orders of General John Maxwell, were deemed worthy of capital punishment in the 1914-18 war.

Their papers lay in the very same file as those of British soldiers shot for desertion or cowardice in France. For the British Army, the Easter Rising was just another episode in the Great War.

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