Patrick Pearse and James Connolly

The Pre-Rising Writings of Patrick Pearse


Born into Dublin’s working class population, Pearse immersed himself in the Gaelic revival of the late 19th century.  Pearse believed that fostering Irish values in the next generation would be instrumental to independence.  In 1908, he founded the St. Enda’s School, boys-only institution, outside of Dublin.  Instruction at the school included extensive work with the Gaelic language, mythology and folklore, and history.  In 1914 and 1915, Pearse’s national reputation increased with a nationally-circulated address to the Fianna Éireann (the Irish boy scouts) and at Glasnevin Cemetery during the internment of Jeremiah O’Donvan Rossa.  Pearse was one of the core group of men who plotted the 1916 Rising, and became the face of the movement during the insurrection thanks to his high profile role at the General Post Office.  Along with fourteen other men, including his younger brother Willie, Patrick Pearse was arrested and executed shortly after the rising.

Pearse’s Address to Na Fianna Éireann (Boy Scouts), 1914

We of Na Fianna Eireann, at the beginning of this year 1914, a year which is likely to be momentous in the history of our country, address ourselves to the boys of Ireland and invite them to band themselves with us in a knightly service. We believe that the highest thing anyone can do is to SERVE well and truly, and we purpose to serve Ireland with all our fealty and with all our strength. Two occasions are spoken of in ancient Irish story upon which Irish boys marched to the rescue of their country when it was sore beset—once when Cuchulainn and the boy troop of Ulster held the frontier until the Ulster heroes rose, and again when the boys of Ireland kept the foreign invaders in check on the shores of Ventry until Fionn had rallied the Fianna: it may be that a similar tale shall be told of us, and that when men come to write the history of the freeing of Ireland they shall have to record that the boys of Na Fianna Eireann stood in the battle-gap until the Volunteers armed.

We believe, as every Irish boy whose heart has not been corrupted by foreign influence must believe, that our country ought to be free. We do not see why Ireland should allow England to govern her, either through Englishmen, as at present, or through Irishmen under an appearance of self-government. We believe that England has no business in this country at all—that Ireland, from the centre to the zenith, belongs to the Irish. Our forefathers believed this and fought for it: Hugh O’Donnell and Hugh O’Neill and Rory O’More and Owen Roe O’Neill: Tone and Emmet and Davis and Mitchel. What was true in their time is still true. Nothing that has happened or that can ever happen can alter the truth of it. Ireland belongs to the Irish. We believe, then, that it is the duty of Irishmen to struggle always, never giving in or growing weary, until they have won back their country again.

The object of Na Fianna Eireann is to train the boys of Ireland to fight Ireland’s battle when they are men. In the past the Irish, heroically though they have struggled, have always lost, for want of discipline, for want of military knowledge, for want of plans, for want of leaders….

…Is it too much to hope that after many centuries the old ideals are still quick in the heart of Irish youth, and that this year we shall get many hundred Irish boys to come forward and help us to build up a brotherhood of young Irishmen strong of limb, true and pure in tongue and heart, chivalrous, cultured in a really Irish sense, and ready to spend themselves in the service of their country?

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Pearse’s Graveside Panegyric for O’Donovan Rossa, 1 August 1915

It has seemed right, before we turn away from this place in which we have laid the mortal remains of O’Donovan Rossa, that one among us should, in the name of all, speak the praise of that valiant man, and endeavor to formulate the thought and the hope that are in us as we stand around his grave. And if there is anything that makes it fitting that I, rather than some other, rather than one of the grey-haired men who were young with him and shared in his labour and in his suffering, should speak here, it is perhaps that I may be taken as speaking on behalf of a new generation that has been re-baptized in the Fenian faith, and that has accepted the responsibility of carrying out the Fenian program. I propose to you then that, here by the grave of this unrepentant Fenian, we renew our baptismal vows; that, here by the grave of this unconquered and unconquerable man, we ask of God, each one for himself, such unshakable purpose, such high and gallant courage, such unbreakable strength of soul as belonged to O’Donovan Rossa.

Deliberately here we avow ourselves, as he avowed himself in the dock, Irishmen of one allegiance only. We of the Irish Volunteers, and you others who are associated with us in to-day’s task and duty, are bound together and must stand together henceforth in brotherly union for the achievement of the freedom of Ireland. And we know only one definition of freedom: it is Tone’s definition, it is Mitchel’s definition, it is Rossa’s definition. Let no man blaspheme the cause that the dead generations of Ireland served by giving it any other name and definition than their name and their definition.

We stand at Rossa’s grave not in sadness but rather in exaltation of spirit that it has been given to us to come thus into so close a communion with that brave and splendid Gael. Splendid and holy causes are served by men who are themselves splendid and holy. O’Donovan Rossa was splendid in the proud manhood of him, splendid in the heroic grace of him, splendid in the Gaelic strength and clarity and truth of him. And all that splendor and pride and strength was compatible with a humility and a simplicity of devotion to Ireland, to all that was olden and beautiful and Gaelic in Ireland, the holiness and simplicity of patriotism of a Michael O’Clery or of an Eoghan O’Growney. The clear true eyes of this man almost alone in his day visioned Ireland as we of to-day would surely have her: not free merely, but Gaelic as well; not Gaelic merely, but free as well.

In a closer spiritual communion with him now than ever before or perhaps ever again, in a spiritual communion with those of his day, living and dead, who suffered with him in English prisons, in communion of spirit too with our own dear comrades who suffer in English prisons to-day, and speaking on their behalf as well as our own, we pledge to Ireland our love, and we pledge to English rule in Ireland our hate. This is a place of peace, sacred to the dead, where men should speak with all charity and with all restraint; but I hold it a Christian thing, as O’Donovan Rossa held it, to hate evil, to hate untruth, to hate oppression, and, hating them, to strive to overthrow them. Our foes are strong and wise and wary; but, strong and wise and wary as they are, they cannot undo the miracles of God who ripens in the hearts of young men the seeds sown by the young men of a former generation. And the seeds sown by the young men of ’65 and ’67 are coming to their miraculous ripening to-day. Rulers and Defenders of Realms had need to be wary if they would guard against such processes. Life springs from death; and from the graves of patriot men and women spring living nations. The Defenders of this Realm have worked well in secret and in the open. They think that they have pacified Ireland. They think that they have purchased half of us and intimidated the other half. They think that they have foreseen everything, think that they have provided against everything; but the fools, the fools, the fools! — they have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace

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The Pre-Rising Writings of James Connolly


James Connolly grew up in Edinburgh, served in (and deserted from) the British army, and lived for several years in Belfast, Dublin, and New York before settling in Dublin in 1910.  He worked with various socialist organizations promoting improved working conditions, and served under James Larkin in creating the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union.  During the lockout, Connolly helped for the Irish Citizen Army, which tried to protect protesting workers from violence.  Although Connolly consistently wrote about the importance of working class unity in spite of national differences, in the aftermath of the lockout, he shifted towards a more aggressive view that Ireland must be free of British imperialism before the cause of social justice could be advanced.  With the outbreak of World War I, Connolly lobbied to discourage Irish workers from volunteering for the British war effort and publicly suggested that a British defeat in the war would be the best opportunity to further the cause of social justice.  By 1915, leaders of the Irish Volunteers had reached out to Connolly, hoping to bring the ICA into the planning for the Easter Rising.  Like Pearse, Connolly had a high public profile during the Easter Rising.  Wounded during the siege of the General Post Office, Connolly famously had to be tied to a chair at Kilmainham Gaol when he faced a British firing squad.


From James Connolly, “War:  What It Means To You”, Address to the Irish Citizen Army, 1914

You are asked to stop and consider what this war will mean to the working class of this city and country.

It already means that increased prices will be demanded for all food and household necessities. In every bite of food you eat you will be compelled to pay for the war; and as you are already poor and have at the best of times a struggle to live the war will mean hunger and misery to thousands ? less food on their tables, less clothes on their backs or beds, less coal for their fires, less boots and shoes on their children?s feet and their own.

War will mean more unemployment and less wages. Already the mills of Belfast are put on short time, which means starvation wages, ware-rooms are closing down, and all foundries and engineering works which make machinery for the Continent, if they have not closed down already, are getting ready to do so.

Thus before a shot has been fired by the British army on land, before a battle has been fought at sea, ruin and misery are entering the homes of the working people. What will be your case? Many thousands of you will die of slow starvation, or perish of cold and long-drawn-out misery before the end of the war if you suffer so much before it is begun….

You women! Remember that it is the children you suckled at your breast, reared at your knees, whose little steps you watched and prayed over and were proud of, it is they who will be sent to fight the battles of the Empire – an Empire that despises you and them – an Empire under whose rule three million Irish people were thrown on the roadside to starve, four million driven like wild beasts out of their own country, an Empire under which in less than fifty years a million and a half of Irish men, women and children died of hunger in the midst of smiling harvests, and under which YOU have lived a lifetime of sweated misery and badly paid toil….

We have no foreign enemy except the treacherous government of England – a government that even whilst it is calling upon us to die for it, refuses to give a straight answer to our demand for Home Rule.

Volunteers! Has the iron of slavery so far entered your souls that you will sing the songs, carry the flags and fight the battles of the Power that even in its extremity refuses to allow your Nation to take its place amongst the Nations of the earth?

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From James Connolly, “The Irish Flag”, Workers’ Republic, 8 April 1916

We are out for Ireland for the Irish. But who are the Irish? Not the rack-renting, slum-owning landlord; not the sweating, profit-grinding capitalist; not the sleek and oily lawyer; not the prostitute pressman – the hired liars of the enemy. Not these are the Irish upon whom the future depends. Not these, but the Irish working class, the only secure foundation upon which a free nation can be reared.

The cause of labour is the cause of Ireland, the cause of Ireland is the cause of labour. They cannot be dissevered. Ireland seeks freedom. Labour seeks that an Ireland free should be the sole mistress of her own destiny, supreme owner of all material things within and upon her soil. Labour seeks to make the free Irish nation the guardian of the interests of the people of Ireland, and to secure that end would vest in that free Irish nation all property rights as against the claims of the individual, with the end in view that the individual may be enriched by the nation, and not by the spoiling of his fellows.

Having in view such a high and holy function for the nation to perform, is it not well and fitting that we of the working class should fight for the freedom of the nation from foreign rule, as the first requisite for the free development of the national powers needed for our class? It is so fitting. Therefore on Sunday, 16 April 1916 the green flag of Ireland will be solemnly hoisted over Liberty Hall as the symbol of our faith in freedom, and as a token to all the world that the working class of Dublin stands for the cause of Ireland, and the cause of Ireland is the cause of a separate and distinct nationality.

In these days of doubt, despair, and resurgent hope we fling our banner to the breeze, the flag of our fathers, the symbol of our national redemption, the sunburst shining over an Ireland re-born.

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