On Monday, April 24, 1916, at the steps of the General Post Office in Dublin, Padraig H. Pearse read a Proclamation of the Irish Republic; ‘We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of the Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible.’
For six days war raged throughout the area surrounding the General Post Office. Most people who have read or studied about the Easter Rising of 1916 are quite familiar with the names of Padraig Pearse, James Connolly, Sean MacDiarmada and Tom Clarke. Though few have read about the significant role women played in the Rebellion and subsequent Tan and Civil Wars. From the time of the Rising onwards, women’s functions varied from correspondence, protests, intelligence gathering, gun-running and using weapons in the heat of battles against British Forces.
Despite dozens of women being wounded, killed and imprisoned, their commitment to the cause of Irish freedom only grew stronger. Prior to the Insurrection, many women across Ireland had been involved in various organizations, whose objectives were to obtain equal rights for women. Following 1916 however, they turned their attentions toward the separatist movements. Knowing that when Ireland’s independence was achieved, so too would their rights and suffrage. Thus, popular organisations like, The Irish Women’s Workers’ Union, Inghinidhe Na hEireann (Daughters of Ireland),The Irish Women’s Franchise League and Cumann na mBan (League of Women), joined forces. Not only to gain Irish freedom but to also strengthen the position of women in Irish society.
On Easter Monday 1916, Republican women began a unique journey as armed revolutionaries. Over forty Volunteers from Cumann Na mBan and the Irish Citizen Army including, Winnie Carney arrived armed with her Webley revolver and typewriter, entered the General Post Office on O'Connell Street with their male comrades. By nightfall, women insurgents were established in all of rebel garrisons, except one. As the Officer Commanding (O/C) in Boland's Mill, Éamon de Valera defied of the orders of Pearse and Connolly, to allow women fighters into the garrison.
The role of many women inside the garrisons was to fight alongside the men and were not confined, to nursing duties or other tasks traditionally assigned to women such as making tea and sandwiches. Scores of Volunteers gathered vital intelligence during the many scouting expeditions. While many others carried despatches and moved arms from dumps across the city to insurgent strongholds.
As hostilities began, Constance Markievicz shot an RIC member in the head, near St Stephen's Green. Later the same day, she carried out sniper attacks on British troops in the city centre. Meanwhile, Helena Moloney was among the soldiers who attacked Dublin Castle. For the remainder of the Uprising, British soldiers were deeply confused and quite hostile when they realized there were also women fighting. Sadly, a number of women Volunteers including, Margaretta Keogh was killed outside the South Dublin Union.
During the fighting a Dublin Ambulance Driver interviewed by a Journalist said; ‘I saw a number of women marching into Dublin on Sunday last. Some of them had revolvers strapped round them. Wearing the dark green uniforms similar to that of male insurgents and slouch hats. There are a number of women fighting with the rebels, and some have been shot and captured.’ According to one of the revolutionaries, Margaret Skinnider. In her book; ‘Doing My Bit for Ireland’ she wrote; ‘about the fighting women, who proved their courage and loyalty repeatedly. Whenever I was called down to carry a dispatch, I took off my uniform, put on my dress and hat, and went out the side door of the college with my message. As soon as I returned, I slipped back into my uniform and joined the firing-squad.’
In the Four Courts, it was Cumann Na mBan Volunteers, who helped evacuate the buildings and destroyed incriminating papers before the cessation. On Friday , 28 April, Pearse ordered the evacuation of the GPO. As the building had been coming under sustained shell and machine-gun fire and he anticipated heavy casualties, if they remained. In all, some two hundred female Volunteers directly participated in military operations, with the same vigour as their male counter-parts. Seventy-seven of whom were subsequently arrested and imprisoned in various prisons throughout Ireland and England. Including Constance Markievicz from Sligo, Helena Moloney from Dublin and Winifred Carney from Belfast. Many others however, escaped British clutches by taking off their military uniforms before leaving Republican garrisons’ around the city.
After the Uprising, Irish women refused to accept the status quo and came into their own. Proving that the events of Easter Week was a real Revolution which was popular and had broad support. Without doubt, the most obvious republican woman of the period was, Constance Markievicz. Thankfully, her role has been well documented. Thus, this article will concentrate on another prominent Irish Revolutionary, Soldier and Socialist, Winifred Carney. A remarkable woman in her own right. She is Belfast’s direct link with the 1916 Rising, alongside with Volunteer. Charlie Monaghan.
I was just researching material regarding, Winnie Carney from Belfast. For North Belfast S/F, as they've named their constituency office on the Antrim Road after her; Teach Carney.
Thought I'd share it with U all....
Do other posters have informaton on her? Or who else do you consider an Irish heroine? Now, don't say; Mary Mc Alesse as according my last thread - she's not Irish, ha ha.
Adh Mhor, Conuil.