Organisations linked to the Easter Rising

The Irish Republican Brotherhood

In 1867 the Fenians staged an abortive rising and by the 1900’s the IRB as an effective organisation was in decline. New members Bulmer Hobson and Dennis McCullogh began to revive it with the assistance of Sean MacDiarmada. The respected old Fenian Thomas Clarke who had been released after a 15 year prison term befriended MacDiarmada, both of them set about recruiting new members and planning an uprising against British rule. By 1915 the old stock had been replaced and there were now 2,000 dedicated members of this secret organisation.

The Gaelic Athletic Association

An organisation founded on 1st November 1884 by Michael Cusack and PW Nally with the patronage of Parnell, Davitt and Archbishop Croke. The GAA aimed to promote Irish games and build up a strong and healthy population. The GAA was again infiltrated by the IRB who used it as a recruiting ground. It should also be noted that members of the security forces such as the Royal Irish Constabulary were banned from its membership.

The Gaelic League

An important organisation founded on 31st July 1893 by Douglas Hyde and Eoin MacNeill. The aim of the League was to promote the Irish language and culture which had been in decline since the Great Hunger. The success of the Gaelic League can be measured by the fact that 19 colleges were set up training 1,800 teachers. Padraic Pearse was the editor of the Leagues newsletter An Claidheamh Soluis (The Sword of Light). The League was infiltrated by the IRB who recruited from amongst the more dedicated nationalist members.

Sinn Fein

Arthur Griffith was the founder of a newspaper the United Irishman thanks to money from Clann Na Gael the American-Irish organisation. In 1900 he founded Cumann na Gaedheal to promote a “Buy Irish” campaign, effectively an economic version of the Gaelic Leagues cultural campaign. In 1903 Griffith set up the National Council to protest against the visit of Edward VII to Ireland. The I.R.B. revivalists Hobson and McCullogh had set up societies in Ulster, called Dungannon Clubs, to promote separatism from Britain. Between 1905 and 1908 Cumann Na Gaedheal, the National Council and the Dungannon Clubs amalgamated to form Sinn Fein (Ourselves). Sinn Fein were mistakenly accused of being behind the 1916 Rising, the actual organisers being the IRB.

The Ulster Volunteers

Home Rule was about to be introduced in Ireland. This was not acceptable to Irelands Northern Unionists who wished Ireland to remain part of Britain. In January 1913 Sir Edward Carson and James Craig set up the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) to defend Ulster against Home Rule.

The Irish Volunteers

On 25th November 1913, 3000 men were inaugurated into a similar organisation for Nationalists called the Irish Volunteers in Dublin. Their aim was to secure the rights and liberties common to all the people of Ireland. By 1914 there were 100,000 Irish Volunteers, for the most unarmed, a figure which caused great alarm to to the British authorities. Again the IRB infiltrated this organisation seeing its potential as a large revolutionary force.

The Howth Gun Running

On 26th July 1914 the Irish Volunteers unloaded a shipment of 1,500 rifles from a yacht belonging to Erskine Childers, The Asgard. The rifles and 45,000 rounds of ammunition had been purchased from Germany who were at war with Britain and were only too willing to cause disruption within their Empire.

Cumann na mBan

Along the lines of the Irish volunteers a women’s auxiliary force was organised called Cumann na mBan. The main organisers were Agnes O’Farrelly, Mary MacSwiney and the Countess Markievicz. When the organisation absorbed the suffragette movement Inginidhe na hEireann (Daughters of Ireland) they adopted a uniform and became a regular army.

Na Fianna

In August 1909 Countess Markievicz and Bulmer Hobson, an IRB revivalist, organised the nationalist youth into Na Fianna Eireann (Warriors of Ireland). Na Fianna were the standing army and bodyguards of Ireland during the time of the mythological hero Fionn Mac Cumhaill. The idea behind the modern Fianna was to encourage the boys to study their heritage and culture thus developing their sense of nationalism and independence. Military drills were held alongside sporting events and Hobsons influence is clear when one considers that many of these “boy scouts” went on to become fully fledged members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. Con Colbert, in charge of Watkins Brewery and its environs during the Rising was no doubt moulded by his time with the Fianna.