There’s before 1916 and then there’s after. Between them lies the Easter Rising, when Irish republicans took up arms against British rule and changed the course of their country’s history forever. For though the resistance failed, it failed gloriously; the rebels were no longer a group of cranks and troublemakers in the public eye, but martyrs and national heroes, their example set the way for others and their mission lived on through the century to come.
But what sort of country did the Rising create? And how does post-1916 Ireland compare with the aspirations of the rebellion’s leaders, the hopes of Thomas MacDonagh and John MacBride, of James Connolly and Patrick Pearse?
One hundred years later, Tim Pat Coogan offers a personal perspective on the Irish experience that followed the Rising. He charts a flawed history that is marked as much by complacency, corruption, and institutional abuse as it is by the building of a nation and the sacrifices of the Republic’s founding fathers.
In this personal, angry work, Coogan (The Famine Plot) revisits a well-covered period in Irish history, but from the perspective of his long engagement in this history as a journalist who knew (and knows) many of the men and women who fill the book's pages. Coogan is outraged at "the corruption of a nation" by both British and Irish political, corporate, and religious figures, and is unsparingly harsh on the Irish Catholic Church, to whose failure he devotes two searing chapters. His indictments, though previously aired by many others, carry much weight. Yet the book has its curious features. Coogan, writing often in the first person, lists all 12 of his previous works of popular history as sources (even quoting from some of them), but none of the great existing histories of his nation. Consequently, read as blunt-talking high journalism rather than as authoritative history, this book is likely to be used by future historians as a primary source. Today it should be read as a work of radical criticism by a disenthralled Irish patriot who's always been on the side of his people, who made history with the tragic Easter rising of 1916, and whose nations's fortunes have remained precarious since.