Tuesday 6 December 2016

What sort of an Ireland did the Rising's leaders want?

Beyond getting rid of the British, there was little agreement on what they would do next

Published 27/03/2016 | 02:30

'Connolly, of course, wanted to spark the flame of international socialism and had told his men to hold on to their guns as they would be needed for the next phase'
'Connolly, of course, wanted to spark the flame of international socialism and had told his men to hold on to their guns as they would be needed for the next phase'

I try to avoid speculation, a great time-waster. You'll never find me poring over pages of what to expect in the budget and I stay well away from conversations on the 'what-ifs' of history. But I admit to a weakness when it comes to a bit of what-might-have-been about the Easter Rising, which has fascinated me since childhood.

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Writing Patrick Pearse's biography increased my curiosity about his six companions in arms, which is why I ended up writing a book about them all many years later. How little most of them knew of each other, I found. The tobacconist, Tom Clarke, the arch-conspirator who made the Rising happen, was an intimate friend only of his lieutenant and protege, the IRB's agent Sean Mac Diarmada.

The mystical poets, academic Thomas MacDonagh and consumptive polymath Joe Plunkett, were best friends, but though MacDonagh was fond of the headmaster and writer Pearse, he knew that only Willie Pearse was close to this mysterious, gifted, cripplingly shy and tortured man.

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