Northern Ireland

Easter Rising 1916: How an Irish rebellion sought international help

Roger Casement Image copyright National Library of Ireland
Image caption Roger Casement travelled to Germany in order to secure arms and support for the Easter Rising

The leaders of the Easter Rising looked beyond Ireland's shores for help with their fight for independence.

They found firm support across the Atlantic, among Irish Americans.

They sought financial aid - but more than that, the rebels wanted material help in the insurrection.

In the years surrounding the Easter Rebellion, the leaders of sympathisers in America sought German backing for Irish freedom.

A promise of German arms helped fuel plans for an Easter Rising.

After the outbreak of World War 1, a man named John Devoy - originally from County Kildare - was found guilty of treason and exiled to Cuba before he moved to America.

Image copyright Villanova University
Image caption The republican movement had long-term ties to the United States

Once there, he hatched a plan. Devoy viewed England's war with Germany as a golden opportunity for Ireland, and began to seek assistance from the Germans.

He and other leaders of Clan na Gael (a secret society of Irish fenians founded in Philadelphia in 1881) met with the German ambassador to the US in August 1914, asking not for money, but for weapons.

Devoy and Roger Casement, a former British diplomat who later became involved in Irish republicanism, met with diplomats from Germany and agreed that if the Germans helped the Rising by supplying guns and military expertise, in return independent Ireland would remain neutral in the war.

The German ship carrying its lethal cargo was scuttled off the coast of Ireland, and its shipment of guns was lost.

No arms came to Ireland from America, despite a request to Devoy. American and British secret services were monitoring Irish-American movements, and Devoy believed that any shipment would fail to get past American ports.

But Irish-America's contribution to the Rising was more than simply financial. Many of the leaders of the rebellion had travelled to or lived in the United States, and some were American citizens.

Image copyright National Library of Ireland
Image caption Eamon De Valera, pictured after being captured, was a Rising leader and US citizen by birth

Both Thomas Clarke and James Connolly had lived for a time in America, while several others, including Joseph Plunkett and Roger Casement, had toured the United States.

Eamon de Valera held dual British-America citizenship, something which played an important role in saving him from execution.

Interest in Ireland's fate remained high across the Atlantic. An account of the Rising, written by a member of Cumann na mBan (an Irish republican women's paramilitary organisation formed in Dublin on 2 April 1914) appeared in the New York Times.