To simply say the fight for a free Ireland is complicated is an understatement at best and shows a total lack of understanding of Irish culture.
In order to understand the threads which came together on May 3, 1916 we need to start with a brief look at the last 2,000 years of Ireland history.
The first permanent inhabitants crossed to Ireland approximately 10,000 years ago. These were hunter gathers who eventually began to farm permanent land holdings forming into tribes with hierarchical leadership. These tribes grew with Iron Age industry about 600 BCE and Celts started integrating into local culture over next 1000 years.
Christianity arrived in Ireland with St. Patrick in 432 CE. There were actually other missionaries in Ireland such as Palladius (sent by the Pope in 431) and British missionaries such as Ciaran of Saiger; Declan o Ardmore, Ibar of Beccére, Ailbe of Emly, M’eltioc of Kinsale, Mo-chanoc and Mo-chatoc.
With Christianity, came the development of abbeys and religious centers which following the fall of the Roman Empire sent scholars and scribes to re-educate Europe. These centers of learning became pilgrimage sights which led to commerce and wealth, which led to the Vikings.
Vikings began raiding in 795 and had established a trading post village at Dublin by about 840. Brian Boru started the consolidation of Ireland under one Irish king in the early 1000s. The Normans which won England in 1066 expanded into Ireland in the 12th Century overcoming the Irish kings.
For all intents and purposes Ireland remained under some level of English rule until 1922.
With nearly a thousand years of being occupied, the Irish have a desire to be free.
There were several attempts at freedom. Between 1534 and 1916 there were 18 significant Irish uprisings. All ending in defeat.
The conscription of Irish lands by the English and subjugation of the Irish to feudal peasants had been going on since the Norman conquests in the 12th Century. With the defeat of the Northern Ireland clan leaders and the Spanish at Kinsale in 1601 the pace of land conscription picked up.
The six counties of Northern Ireland saw the most intense influx of English arrivals in the Protestant (Presbyterian) Scotch Irish. It was the Scotch Irish influence and financial backing from the English government that led to the industrialization of Northern Ireland and the cultural shift from the other 26 Ireland counties.
The cultural shift between Northern and Southern Ireland was not as most people think a religious difference, which there was (Protestant vs Catholic), but a difference in attitude. Northern Ireland became part of the British Industrial Revolution, and as such the mindset turned to factories and processes and production. Meanwhile Southern Ireland remained primarily agricultural with a focus on family, community and quality of life, as displayed in their love of literature, music and story telling.
The quest for freedom continued to grow in the hearts of the Irish. Over the next 300 years there were 14 Irish uprisings fueled primarily by the treatment of the English estate holders toward the tenant farmers.
Other factors included the independence movements in the United States, France, Italy and other countries of Europe. As the rest of the European Continent grew, the Irish saw themselves remaining stagnant.
The Irish were not a foolish or stupid people. Over the years they organized, thought about and discussed what an independent Ireland might look like.
In April of 1916, seven men wrote and signed a manifesto which starts with: “Irishmen and Irishwomen: In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom.”
The Proclamation of the Irish Republic was read from the steps of the Post Office in Dublin on April 24, 1916. The resistance held out for one week until they surrendered. And over the next nine days they died in the courtyard of Kilmainham Goal.
As the people of Ireland witnessed their deaths, there was a change of heart in the Irish people. As news of how the deaths of the resistance leaders was written in the press the people of Ireland began to understand that the 14 who died wanted an Ireland whose treasure and destiny would belong to the people Ireland.
The stage was set. England could no longer contain the Irish desire for independence.
Following a guerrilla war which ended with the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty On December 6, 1921, the Irish State gained independence from Britain.