The Irish Proclamation 1916

In preparing this blog, I realise how little I know about the 1916 Proclamation, the Signatories and the Easter Rising. While this blog only touches the tip of the story of the Proclamation I hope it is of interest to some and creates a dialogue to learn some more fascinating tip-bits from other Wild Geese!

The Irish Proclamation, one of the most important documents from Irish history, as mainly written by Padraig Pearse, who read it out under the portico of the GPO just before noon on Easter Monday 1916. The Proclamation declared Ireland as a sovereign independent Republic.  Copies of the proclamation were then pasted on buildings around Dublin city centre.

A thousand copies of the proclamation had been printed in secret at Liberty Hall on the night before and morning of Easter Monday 1916, in time for the start of the Rising. Added to the very tight deadline for printing, there were problems with the design and layout of the original document, which the typesetters and printers did well to overcome considering the tension and danger they were in. 

Three typesetters were used: Willie O’Brien, Michael Molloy and Christopher Brady. All had difficulty with the supply of type letters and lack of same size or font, which resulted in the text of the final document being mismatched.  The document had to be printed in two halves due to the lack of type set, the top half of the document was printed first and then the bottom section was printed on the same paper.  

The document measured 20 x 30” (a popular theatre poster size of the time), white in colour with a greyish tinge.  The paper used was actually quite a poor quality, it was thin and easily tore, supplied by the Swift Brook Paper Mill in Saggart, County Dublin, who had a reputation for quality paper, but the paper provided in 1916 was poorer than the Mill’s normal quality as the linen normally used in the production of paper was used for bandages during the Great War, which meant all paper produced at the time was a poorer quality.

It is thought there are about 30 to 50 of the original 1,000 copies still in existence.  The actual original signed Irish Proclamation was never found and was more than likely destroyed during the surrender or soon after. Seán T. O’Kelly, who participated in the 1916 Rising and who became president of Ireland, presented his copy to the Irish parliament building and is on display in Leinster House.  
Other original copies of the Irish Proclamation can be seen in the National Print Museum in Dublin, Trinity College Dublin, National Museum of Ireland in Dublin and in the GPO Museum.

Every year on Easter Sunday, as part of the 1916 Rising commemorations, an officer of the Irish Defence Forces reads the Irish Proclamation outside the GPO.

Signatories to the Irish Proclamation 1916

Thomas James Clarke

  • First signatory of the Irish Proclamation due to his seniority.
  • Born on the Isle of Wight, 1857.
  • Father was a soldier in the British army.
  • Spent time in America as a young man where he joined Clann na nGael, later to return to America his connection to Clann na nGael brought him to a strong position in the revolutionary movement in Ireland.
  • Served a 15 year prison term for his part in a bombing campaign in London, 1883-1898.
  • Treasurer of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and a member of the Supreme Council from 1915.
  • Easter Rising, occupied the GPO.
  • Executed 3rd May 1916.

Seán MacDiarmada

  • Born in Leitrim, 1884.
  • Emigrated to Glasgow in 1900, then to Belfast in 1902.
  • Member of the Gaelic League.
  • Joined Republic Brotherhood in 1906 when in Belfast.
  • Moved to Dublin in 1908.
  • Became manager of IRB’s newspaper ‘Irish Freedom’ in 1910.
  • Afflicted with polio in 1912.
  • Drafted onto military committee of IRB I 1915.
  • Easter Rising, occupied the GPO.
  • Executed 12th May 1916.

Padraig Pearse

  • Born in Dublin, 1879.
  • Interested in Irish culture since a teenager.
  • 1896 became a member of the Executive Committee of the Gaelic League.
  • Graduated from the Royal University 1901, degree in Arts & Law.
  • Published extensively in both Irish and English.
  • Became editor of the newspaper of the Gaelic League ‘An Claidheamh Soluis’.
  • Founder member of the Irish Volunteers and the author of the Proclamation of Independence.
  • Present in the GPO during the Rising, Commander in Chief of the Irish forces.
  • Executed on 3rd May 1916.

James Connolly

  • Born in Edinburgh in 1868.
  • Was a member of the British army, stint in Ireland.
  • Returned to Scotland and the strong Irish presence in Edinburgh developed Connelly’s interest in Irish politics in  the mid 1890s.
  • Emigrated to Dublin in 1896.
  • Founded the Irish Socialist Republication Party.
  • Spent time in America before returning to Ireland to campaign for worker’s rights with James Larkin.
  • Also campaigned against religious bigotry.
  • Co-founder of  the Irish Citizen Army in 1913.
  • Easter Rising, appointed Commandant-General of the Dublin forces, leader of the group who occupied the GPO. Wounded during their Easter Rising.
  • Executed sitting in a chair as unable to stand due to his wounds, 12 May 1916. Last of the leaders to be executed.

Thomas McDonagh

  • Born in Tipperary, 1878.
  • Moved to Dublin to study, became a teacher and founded St. Enda’s school with Padraig Pearse.
  • Position at the English Department, University College Dublin
  • Wrote play ‘When the Dawn is Come’, produced at the Abbey.
  • Appointed director of training for the Irish Volunteers in 1914.
  • Appointed to the IRB military committee in 1916
  • Easter Rising, Commander of the Second Battalion of Volunteers, occupied Jacob’s biscuit factory.
  • Executed 3rd May 1916

Éamonn Ceannt 

  • Born in Galway, 1891
  • Employed by the Dublin Corporation
  • Co-founder of the Irish Volunteers, involved in the Howth gun-running operation in 1914
  • Interest in Irish culture, Irish language and history
  • Played the Uileann Pipes
  • Easter Rising, Commander of the Fourth Battalion of Irish Volunteers, taking possession of the South Dublin Union (now St. James’ Hospital)
  • Executed on 8th May 1916.

Joseph Mary Plunkett

  • Born in Dublin, 1887.
  • Son of a papal count, educated in England, returned to Ireland and graduated from U.C.D. in 1909.
  • Travelled for two years before returning to Dublin in 1911.
  • Love of literature and became editor of the Irish Review.  With MacDonagh and Edward Martyn he established an Irish National Theatre.
  • Joined  the Irish Volunteers in 1913.
  • Became a member of the IRB in 1914.
  • Travelled to Germany to meet Roger Casement in 1915.
  • Appointed Director of Military Operations during the Rising, with overall responsibility for military strategy.
  • Easter Rising, occupied the GPO.
  • While imprisoned in Kilmainham Gaol following the surrender he married Grace Gifford.
  • Executed on 4th May 1916

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Tags: 1916, Commemoration, Easter Rising, Irish Freedom Struggle, Memorabilia, Proclamation

Comment by Jim Curley on February 17, 2016 at 1:00pm

A fact of interest to me is that Tom Clarke was a naturalized American citizen.

Heritage Partner
Comment by Totally Irish Gifts on February 17, 2016 at 1:12pm

Yes, I was really surprise to learn that, particularly as I had learned in school (many moons ago!) that Eamonn de Valera was not executed after the Rising because he was a American, so I don't know why this didn't also apply to Tom Clarke.


Comment by michael dunne on February 29, 2016 at 9:02am

Many reasons have been advanced for de Valera not being executed, the most popular being the pleadings on his behalf for clemency because of his American citizenship. Much of the invective towards de Valera is a throw back to "Civil War" prejudices which most young Irish people are fed up with as evidenced in our recent General Election. People would do well, in my opinion, to acquaint themselves with the fact that immediately after the 1916 rebellion, thousands were rounded up and over 90 imprisoned in Richmond Barracks and sentenced to death. Many unsympathetic Irishmen changed their minds because of the gradual executions and disposal of the fourteen bodies in quicklime and the degredation of the next of kin. This ancient barbarism is like something from the Greek classics of Achilles treatment of the body of Hector. This outrage caused many right minded people to feel the true revulsion for England and its arrogant policies of colonialism. Public opinion and outrage caused the suspension of the death penalty for de Valera and the other 90 prisoners similarly sentenced. Tom Clarke was the oldest and first of the seven signatories. For me de Valera was perhaps the greatest of Irishmen in this turbulent period and for many reasons, not least because he chose to live for Ireland and not die. The bi centenary of 1916 was celebrated in Arbour Hill a lonesome burial ground. In 1966 our school class of 40 were selected as a Guard of Honour and an honour it was to be there among the ghosts of such brave men and the living de Valera. Even then de Valera was trying to escape from the image of guns and revolution, focusing instead on youth and education. 

Comment by Jim Curley on February 29, 2016 at 9:09am

I heard somewhere that he was next in line to be killed when the Brits stopped the executions.

Comment by michael dunne on February 29, 2016 at 9:17am

It has been said that a true democracy can be gauged by the rights and equality of women in society and by the access to the law for all citizens. A third might be added and that would be to permit Irish exiles to vote in the general elections of the country of their birth. there has been a massive exodus of educated young Irish people to the four corners of the world. If government was serious about encouraging these great people, these national assets to return home, they could start by permitting them a postal or alternative means of participating in their countrys politics and governance. This may never happen and I think we know why. In the height of the emigration since our economic collapse, we had 80,000 Irish leaving each year. This trend continues albeit not as many, as they are no longer here in such numbers. Thats a lot of hemorrhaging of people with a population of 4.5 million

Comment by michael dunne on February 29, 2016 at 5:09pm

Hi Jim,

Tom Clarke was a signatory and the Daddy of the 1916 Rebellion, whereas de Valera was the Daddy of the Irish Republic even though he was not a signatory of the Proclamation. Many people were next in line but international opinion put a stop to the executions which was referred to as "The Blood Under The Door" This referred to the stone breakers yard in Kilmainham Gaol where the leaders were shot two and three at the time over a period of weeks. While a lot has been heard of Michael Collins little is heard about Liam Lynch? And for the remarkable and long life de Valera lived, much of the commentary about him is negative.

Heritage Partner
Comment by That's Just How It Was on March 1, 2016 at 8:42am

While I agree with you michael dunne that De Valera was the Daddy of the  Republic, lets not forget that in Michael Collins  own words  "we have the freedom to achieve freedom ", and his lost papers and other documents which turned up many decades later [!!] , acknowledges his own frustration at the way the Treaty had turned  the people against each other..... Just  like the Kerry accident in 1916 ....[ 18th Nov 2016 .Wild Geese. The fist casualties of the 1916 Rising were in Kerry] and the wireless station that did not get blown up,  in the nearby College in Caherciveen... the "what if's" he had lived - this of course could be said about much of Irish history, .....  when DeValera  heard that Collins was assassinated, is on record as saying " what have they done " and what are we going to do now "..

History, also asks the question " was DeValera complicit in Collins death ??? .............. will we ever know ???...   

Comment by michael dunne on March 4, 2016 at 9:58am

Hello Mary,

I think that even if irrefutable historical fact existed in proof of any scenario, there are those theorists who will remain blinkered to those same facts in order to advance their ideas. It is unlikely from what we know of the statements of the military archives (freely available on line) that de Valera was complicit in Michael Collins death, no matter what some historians ask. Sonny O'Neill fired the lethal shot, and lived and died in Dublin , homeless and anonymous. Michael Collins could be said to be more responsible for his own death travelling to the stronghold of the Anti treatite forces in West Cork in the middle of a Civil War....a war none the less. Pride cometh before a fall. These men were principled and brave almost beyond belief in their personal committment to their country. Great men died on both sides but little is mentioned of Liam Lynch and his role in this war compared to Collins or de Valera.


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