In 1916, England's oldest colony sent the empire an unforgettable memo that its days were numbered. There are many ironies in that moment that should be reflected on this month.

The nation that was longest subjugated by the Crown was also the first one to demonstrate that the jig was up.

There had been rumblings in the days prior to the revolt. The British had intercepted telegrams between the German embassies in the United States and Berlin that explicitly claimed that the Rising would occur on Easter weekend 1916.

These signals were ignored. Ireland had been restive for so long, it had been under British rule for so many centuries, that men like chief secretary Augustine Birrell and commander-in-chief in Ireland Sir Lovick Friend had not even cancelled military leave on the days in question, and the major buildings in Dublin were left almost undefended. British high command had become complacent.

Add to that that, men like Birrell had genuine affection for Ireland and the Irish. His instincts had told him they would not rise up.

And London, reeling from the disastrous war in Europe, had its eyes on Germany and had little time to reflect on Irish agitators in its own back yard.

But England's difficulty was Ireland's opportunity. Mired in a lethal war, the British were exposed as they had not been in decades. The real politic was as coldly calculated it was effective.

Some late in the day commentators like former Fine Gael Taoiseach John Bruton have since claimed that Home Rule was on the cards and that the Rising was ill-timed, destructive and counter productive.

On the face of it that's a debatable claim. Certainly you can argue that the Rising was ill-timed (is there ever an universally agreed timetable for a revolution?) But what is absolutely certain is that the Rising accelerated the pace of Irish independence.

It's the sheer lopsidedness of the event, it's David versus Goliath quality, that still startles both supporters and critics alike. About 1,600 Irish rebels (the date of the Rising wasn't widely known so few turned out on the day) took on 19,000 British troops.

How were the rebel leaders and their troops, many of whom were receiving contradictory orders, supposed to survive that? The short answer is many of them actually didn't expect to.

Certainly Padraig Pearse didn't, and his actions – which included adding the provocative phrase “our gallant allies in Europe” to the Proclamation – seemed calculated to inflame the strongest possible response in the British forces. He was goading them to behave in the way he had anticipated.

Some commentators have seen parallels with contemporary terrorism in the willingness of Irish rebel leaders to sacrifice their lives for their wider cause. These comparisons are insupportable, however.

The intention of suicide bombers is to destroy, not create. That flatly contradicts the sacrifice that the smiling Pearse knew he was making when they escorted him to the firing squad.

Is it fanatical to forfeit your own life in the cause of Irish freedom? Some say yes, some say no.

One thing is sure: Pearse understood that his supreme sacrifice would hasten the movement toward independence. It was a price that he was willing to pay. That level of courage and self-abnegation is rare and it should be reflected upon too.

There will never be a shortage of academics and journalists lining up to take cheap shots at the Rising. We should have waited, they say, or we should have offered non-violent resistance, or we should have understood it was destined to fail.

History is what it is, however. They rose up, and because they did we now have a Republic.

Critics of the Rising only tell half of the story, perhaps because one of the lessons is so discomforting: you get as much power as you take.

With Ulster's UVF arming itself at the prospect of Home Rule, how long would we have waited for London to take action? Critics of the Irish revolution like to gloss over these complications and speak of the good intentions of the British government.

With little incentive to act, with little to gain and much to lose, how quickly were they supposed to see the error of their own ways?

A better question, one that is rarely asked, one that should be asked of revisionists like Bob Geldof and others is this: If you call the actions taken by Irish rebels terrorism, what do you call the exploitation of most of the planet by the Crown Forces?

In the light of the Rising, Ireland has grappled with its painful history and its conscience for decades, which helped ensure the recent commemorations were dignified and thoughtful. But when will the British, who delight in writing take downs of the Irish revolution, grapple with their centuries long history of global colonization, enslavement, exploitation and murder?

Before pointing the finger at Ireland or its rebel leaders, let them look to themselves alone.

Books on the 1916 Easter Rising: Grandpa the Sniper, The Abbey Rebels, and a History of the Easter Rising in 50 Objects.