1916 was one of the most important years in Irish history. The Easter Rising was a short-term failure but led within 5 years to independence.
The Proclamation was one of the key documents from the rising. It was signed by the 7 leaders of the rising.
POBLACHT NA hÉIREANN
THE PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT OF THE IRISH REPUBLIC TO THE PEOPLE OF IRELAND
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. Having organised and trained her manhood through her secret revolutionary organisation, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and through her open military organisations, the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army, having patiently perfected her discipline, having resolutely waited for the right moment to reveal itself, she now seizes that moment, and supported by her exiled children in America and by gallant allies in Europe, but relying in the first on her own strength, she strikes in full confidence of victory.
We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people.
In every generation the Irish people have asserted their right to national freedom and sovereignty; six times during the past three hundred years they have asserted it in arms. Standing on that fundamental right and again asserting it in arms in the face of the world, we hereby proclaim the Irish Republic as a Sovereign Independent State, and we pledge our lives and the lives of our comrades in arms to the cause of its freedom, of its welfare, and of its exaltation among the nations.
The Irish Republic is entitled to, and hereby claims, the allegiance of every Irishman and Irishwoman. The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien Government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.
Until our arms have brought the opportune moment for the establishment of a permanent National Government, representative of the whole people of Ireland and elected by the suffrages of all her men and women, the Provisional Government, hereby constituted, will administer the civil and military affairs of the Republic in trust for the people.
We place the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most High God, Whose blessing we invoke upon our arms, and we pray that no one who serves that cause will dishonour it by cowardice, inhumanity, or rapine. In this supreme hour the Irish nation must, by its valour and discipline, and by the readiness of its children to sacrifice themselves for the common good, prove itself worthy of the august destiny to which it is called.
Signed on behalf of the Provisional Government:
THOMAS J. CLARKE
SEAN Mac DIARMADA THOMAS MacDONAGH
P. H. PEARSE EAMONN CEANNT
JAMES CONNOLLY JOSEPH PLUNKETT
The Proclamation can be divided into two parts; that which looks to the past and that of the future.
The document begins with the claim that Ireland has the right to be free and sovereign. This is based on history, specifically the fact that the country never accepted British rule. Specifically it claims that every generation has fought for independence and it is this tradition which the participants claim to belong.
Once the claim to the right to sovereignty has been claimed the document then goes on to outline the type of society they are claiming sovereignty for. In this, the Proclamation is a very progressive document;
- It specifies that the form of government was to be a republic.
- It guarantees "religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens."
- It specifies that both men and women have the right to vote. At the time only a handful of countries, not including Britain, allowed universal suffrage.
As part of the commitment to equal right for all the authors were clear that they saw the differences that existed between Catholic and Protestant as being "differences carefully fostered by an alien government."
While there is no evidence that they actually did physically sign a document the 7 leaders of the Rising put their name to the document. These were all captured and executed. As part of our 1916 series we will profile each at a later date.
Printing and Distribution
The document itself has a recognisably unique print. This is a result of its having to be secretly printed. The printer did not have enough of the same typeface -in particular 'e' from other typefaces had to be used.
The document was also printed in two parts, with the top printed first and then the bottom printed later.
Copies were placed on lamp posts around Dublin and the document itself was read from the steps of the GPO by Padraic Pearse.
The Proclamation is an iconic document in Irish history. The unique layout resulting from its printing process makes it instantly recognisable but it also set out principles that the leaders saw as representing Irish ideals; equal rights and suffrage, as well as a continuing and ancient right to freedom.
Later leaders did not always live up to these ideals but they serve as a guiding path.
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