The Life and Times of Michael Staines’

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4.3 The 1916 Rising

On Easter Monday 1916, the IRB, having secretly organised the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizens army, seized key buildings around Dublin. A proclamation declaring an Irish republic was read from the steps of the GPO by Padraig Pearce the commander of the rebels. The rising continued for week destroying the centre of Dublin. However it failed to take off nationally because of stand down orders from Eoin McNeil due to misunderstanding in the planning of the rising and the capture of the Aud, a German ship supplying arms of the coast of Kerry[Pri13].

In the aftermath of the rising, the British ordered the execution of the leaders, and this was the catalyst that transformed Irish public opinion from being content with Home Rule to demanding a complete Irish republic.

Sinn Fein was wrongly blamed for the rising and over 3,000 people were imprisoned, this gave the younger members of the IRB and the Irish Volunteer’s time to analyse the military failure of the rising, men like Collins and Mulcahy planned to continue the fight, but on different terms. This time using guerrilla tactics, based on intelligence and hit and run raids that were to characterise the war of Independence [Pri13]

It was against this background that Michael Staines got involved in Nationalist politics when he moved to Dublin in1902. He became treasurer of the Colmcille branch of the Gaelic League, but did not get involved in political nationalism until 1913, when he attended the inaugural meeting of the Irish Volunteer’s. He became quartermaster to many of the companies that drilled at Colmcille Hall, and in 1915 became quartermaster to the Dublin Brigade He worked for Henshaws , the Ironmongers, and was ideally placed to reroute arms and ammunition from Henshaws to his comrades [Fos14].

The following gives an idea of what it was like for the organisers in the planning of the rising. The following is from the Military Archive interview WS 1753 of Liam Tobin Director of intelligence for the IRA under Michael Collins , who also worked in Henshaws with Staines in the months leading up to the rising

I got employment in the hardware firm of Smiths of Capel Street. Later I went to Brooks Thomas's, and just before Easter Week I had gone to Henshaws in Christchurch Place.

Michael Staines, who was at that time connected with the Q.M.G.'s department of the Irish Volunteers, was also employed in Henshaws. Frank Harding was also there. Staines was terminating his employment some weeks before Easter Week, and he told me to ascertain what shotguns, small arms, and, as far as I can remember, pike handles and stuff like that might be in Henshaws.. He also gave me the first hint that the coming Easter might be the time that we were going to fight. "Well, I'll see you on Easter Sunday", or some such thing. I could not understand at the time why he did not say where. As events turned out, it was the Easter Rising he had been referring to. As well as I can remember I did succeed in bringing away, or having some stuff removed from Henshaws, such as - shotguns, shotgun cartridges and things like that[Ton15]

According to Padraig Yates, Staines had little time for politics or politicians and he joined the volunteer’s because it was a non-sectarian and non-political organisation, He owed his rapid rise to quartermaster of the Dublin Brigade not only to ability, but to the fact that he worked in Henshaws And was able to buy guns from gunsmiths in the city, and his brother Humphrey, a seaman who smuggled guns in through Liverpool port.[Yat11]

According to stains himself in his own interview “every man in the company had a rifle, I obtained them from the IRB, revolvers and shotguns from Henshaws where I worked, shotguns and revolvers from Garnetts and Keegans gunsmiths, others was bought from British soldiers. My brother Humphrey who worked on the liner the’ Baltic’ used to bring in revolvers from America, twenty at a time through Liverpool[McG11]

Staines was also on the general counsel of the Irish Volunteer’s and a member of the IRB; this brought him close to Padraig Pearce in the months leading up to the rising where he became national quartermaster.

According to Dominic Price, during the rising he fought in the GPO and was one of the stretcher bearers for James Connolly as he was taken wounded from the building. After the rising he was interned at Wakefield and Frongoch in North Wales where he became a key leader of the prisoners in South camp, running the camp along military lines[Pri13].

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