The handbill seen here was published in late December 1916 after the release of the prisoners who were interned in the wake of the Easter Rising. The handbill draws attention to the fact that even though the prisoners had been released, the bodies of the leaders of the 1916 Rising were still buried in Arbour Hill Barrack Yard and had not been returned to the families for proper burial. In the wake of the Easter Rising, the leaders had been picked out from among the ranks of the prisoners and stood trial for their actions during the week. Of the men who stood trial, the following were sentenced to be executed for their roles in the Easter Rising: Patrick Pearse, Thomas Clarke, Thomas MacDonagh, Joseph Plunkett, Edward Daly, Michael O’Hanrahan, Willie Pease, John MacBride, Eamonn Ceantt, Michael Mallin, Sean Heuston, Con Colbert, Seán MacDiarmada, and James Connolly.
After their executions, the 14 Leaders executed in Dublin had all been buried in Arbour Hill. Unknown to many in the wake of the Rising, they had been buried in quicklime (a cement-like substance) so that their bodies could not be exhumed and re-interred elsewhere. General Maxwell had issued the order to have the bodies buried in quicklime at Arbour Hill because he felt that “Irish Sentimentality will turn the graves into martyrs’ shrines to which annual processions etc. will be made.” He was ultimately concerned that the deceased mens’ families would create spectacles out of the burials and use the funerals to rally against the British government. He was also concerned that the graves would become a rallying point for future radical nationalists, much like the grave of Wolfe Tone had become, with yearly marches and speeches being held at their gravesides.
As this document shows, Maxwell clearly misjudged the ramifications of keeping the bodies away from the families and preventing their private burialsBy burying the bodies at Arbour Hill, he ultimately did the very thing that he sought to avoid and created a rallying point for Irish Nationalists. People were already clamoring for the bodies to be returned to the families, and the grievance was one that elicited sympathy and support even from those who were not aligned with the nationalist movement. This handbill is important because it shows the rebirth of the nationalist movement that occurred in Ireland in late 1916 when the prisoners were released, as well as the role the nationalist propaganda helped to play in the turning of the tide of public opinion. Arbour Hill has today been turned into a monument to the leaders of the Rising who lie buried beneath. Maxwell’s plan to keep the bodies from becoming a shrine that people would visit ultimately failed as the public have access to the graves, and the site has become a destination for all those who visit Dublin and want to see the sites that tell the history of the Irish Revolution.