What If? An Alternative History of the 1916 Easter Rising

This browser doesn't support WebRTC so you won't be able to use Computer Audio to join a conference call.
Please use a browser that supports WebRTC such as either Chrome, Firefox or Opera.

The centenary commemorations of the 1916 Easter Rising are fast approaching and with the current political climate, many are wondering what a rising in 2016 might look like. This is a particular brand of speculative history known as counterfactual history which asks a lot of ‘what ifs’ about significant events in our past and how alternate outcomes would have shaped us today.

With the release of our mobile conferencing app, for iOS and Android devices we wondered, if the 1916 rebels had access to mobile conferencing, how would the 1916 Easter Rising have been different?

Why Mobile Conferencing?

The underground, remote and mobile nature of the Home Rule organisation and movement meant that communicating using fixed technology would have been a huge liability. Imagine sitting in on an important conference for planning the rising in your living room, your office, or the only telephone line in your rural Irish village! It wouldn’t take long for the British police forces to arrest you, or worse.

Additionally, during the rising itself the insurgents failed to cut telephone wires in the city, partly to keep communication channels open to them – at the time they were banking on using the phones in the locations they had captured to communicate – if they had access to mobile conferencing they could have cut those lines without hindering themselves. This, in turn, would have delayed information relating to the British and thereby prolonged the rising.

Impact of Mobile Conferencing

There are a couple of key events during the 1916 Easter Rising where mobile conferencing could have changed the course of events dramatically.

The first is the capture of the German boat The Aud which cost the insurgents 20,000 rifles, 10 machine guns, explosives and about a million rounds of ammunition. The capture was the result of The Aud arriving two days earlier than expected and landing without the support of the rebels. Had The Aud been able to keep in contact with the rebels regarding its location the rebels could have reacted in real time and adapted, organised and mobilised to defend it.

The capture of The Aud resulted in Chief-of-Staff of the Irish Volunteers, Eoin MacNeill, withdrawing support for the Rising, which he had been reluctant to endorse in the first place. Had mobile conferencing saved The Aud no doubt something else would have set him off leading him to issue the countermand calling off the Rising which became a severe and deadly blow to the rebel effort.

Padraig Pearse scrambled to inform the scattered and remote rebels that the rising was still going ahead despite Eoin MacNeill’s countermand but the slow and conflicting information ultimately led, many sources believe, to less than 2,000 fighters turning up on the day. Had the full number of Irish Volunteers mobilised it could have been anything between 14,000 to 100,000 Volunteers.

Certainly, without MacNeill’s command, there would have been many volunteers who did not want to be involved but had Pearse been able to speak quickly, clearly and directly to the pockets of potential rebels across the country the numbers would certainly have been more in the Rising’s favour.

Different Outcome

Greater numbers would have resulted in a National, rather than localised rising and successful takeovers of both Trinity College (which would have made up for the lost weapons aboard The Aud) and Dublin Castle. Successes that, while not securing victory for the insurgents in the Rising, would probably have turned public sympathy in favour of the Rising and hindered Britain’s efforts in the war on mainland Europe.

With Britain losing face on an international stage and a potential strategically beneficial German ally becoming obvious to all, Ireland would have been given greater bargaining tools to deal with Britain for their aims in the long run.

While it’s doubtful that access to mobile conferencing would have secured victory for the Irish Rebels, it would have made a dramatic impact on proceedings and the rebels would have been more reactive and adaptable as events were unfolding.

If you think mobile conferencing could have a positive impact on your business’ outcomes, don’t be left writing your own counterfactual history – try our mobile app for iOS and Android.